It has to be said. While Maxis obviously deserved to bask for a bit in the afterglow of Sim City, success seemed to fuddle its brains slightly, leaving us with the general impression that the company had very few ideas for future releases. For a year after the original game's release, it was Sim This. Sim That, and Sim Everything Else. Farms. Ants. Earths, they all became God games under the Maxis wing. Still, with A-Train they took a slightly different route and attempted to take on Microprose's Railroad Tycoon in a battle of transport.
Billed as The (Rail)Road To Riches'. A-Train is set in the not-too-distant future where automobile pollution is killing the Earth. The authorities promptly ban the offending vehicles (ie, all those which rely on the internal combustion engine as a means of propulsion), leaving the railways with a free track. As one such participant in this neat little monopoly it's up to you to expand your routes to cater for the world's populace, while also ensuring that they are properly maintained. Granted, it may not sound a particularly original slant on Sid Meier's idea, but it takes the idea behind the Micro-prose game one logical step further. For instance, though you start just laying railroads, you end-up building factories produce faster locos or better track, and you can even in vest your profits in the stock market!
As big a fan as I am of Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, I have to admit that the Maxis game has more on offer. It still suffers from the same faults as the Micro-prose game - it's extremely hard to actually make a profit, for instance - but the addition of a stock market really is a smart idea. Pretty much ignored first time round, make sure you catch the A-Train this time.
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