I really wanted to love this game, as a huge fan of Transport Tycoon ever since Casey and I played it as teenagers for many hours instead of going outside.
But I can’t recommend the new iOS version.
Transport Tycoon is a very click-heavy, micromanagement-heavy game. By the standards of the ’90s, when it came out, this was normal — anyone playing PC simulation games in the ’90s probably didn’t have anything else to do than click a million times to accomplish fairly common tasks, such as “Add two more passenger cars to every train on this route,” “Make this train stop at every station it passes,” or “Make six identical buses that go between these two stops.” It has a very complex interface full of tiny, cryptic controls to manage its very complex feature set.
When they announced that they were bringing it to iOS, I hoped that they would redesign the game for touch, not just port it. iPad and (especially) iPhone games can’t have all of the same mechanics as a game designed for a mouse and played by people with too much free time almost 20 years ago.
Doing it well would have required simplifying the mechanics by removing some features, big and small, to reduce the interface complexity and make it fit better in today’s context of simpler, more accessible games that require less instruction up front and can be played in blocks of a few minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, it’s much closer to a straight port, so it feels exactly as you’d expect: like clumsily, tediously playing a game on a touch screen that was designed for different hardware in a different era. It’s not even that great of a port — the graphics are low-resolution, gloomy, and dated, it’s hard to fit much on screen, and they missed tons of opportunities to improve the interface. Even though I know this isn’t the case, it almost feels as if they’re just running the original game in a DOS simulator.
Playing it feels like work. It’s not fun. I tried getting into it a lot over the last two months since I was accepted into the beta, but I rarely got past building my first transit line before wanting to throw my iPad out the window and find something else to do.
All it did for me was motivate me to reinstall the fantastic OpenTTD on my Mac so I could play the game properly. A few hours into it — since time flies when you’re having fun, a feeling I never got from the iOS version — I was reassured that I’m not sick of Transport Tycoon.