Away from the hilarity of bleating goats and catastrophic surgery procedures, simulators as a genre have often only readily been able to attract a niche audience. That isn’t through a lack of diversifying, with Goat Simulator, Surgeon Simulator and Street Cleaning Simulator’s quirky happenings having helped to break down such boundaries.
Suspension Railroad Simulator, or Schwebebahn-Simulator, conversion to Wii U sadly falls stupendously short of striking the same chord. Whisking us to North Rhine-Westphalia’s Wuppertal, it presents a unique invitation to take in the surrounding sights while being patiently sat aboard the city’s renowned suspension monorail. As a rookie driver, your task is simple in safely transporting commuters between the 20 stations that run along the 8.3 mile-long line, obeying any signalling and addressing any issues highlighted by the Control Room as you go.
Early impressions always count regardless of genre, and it is Wuppertal’s own SilentFuture that are responsible for delivering such a poorly optimised port. You begin in your office where calendars, a coffee pot, and drawers await being playfully tampered with. Whereas a lone tablet displays the credits – somewhat ironically listing the independent developer as ‘SiltentFuture,’ suggesting how stringent the quality control was on this.
With no clear direction, you’re left to your own devices, the developer clearly hoping that you don’t wander toward the ‘Exit’ door – somewhat redundantly returning you to the language selection screen, before loading you straight back to where you were. Whereas eventually discovering the ‘Start’ door, for many courtesy of the manual’s Quick Start Guide, and your newfound career is set in motion. That is until you enter the driver’s cab.
With all manner of switches, levers and buttons placed under your control – let alone commuters – you’re understandably reliant on knowing exactly what everything does. Yet an on-screen interface that is supposed to present how these are mapped to the Wii U GamePad finds itself entirely obscured by invasive views from the surrounding windows.
We yet again turn to the manual. “When you sit in the driver’s cab of the suspension railroad train for the first time, the number of switches may look a bit daunting. But don’t worry – it’s actually quite simple,” it exclaims. Press Y to turn on the power, A to open the doors to let the commuters on and again to close, push the Right Stick forward to release the brakes and then the Left Stick to set everything in motion. Simple, then.
It could be argued that it’s part of the experience that this four-step process isn’t implemented in-game as a tutorial, although it would certainly ease getting started. It’s certainly damning that no real consideration has been made for either the Wii U or the more family-friendly audience that the console attracts. The Wii U GamePad receives permanent Off-TV Play support, but it’s a missed opportunity that the train’s controls aren’t alternatively presented in a meaningful way on the touchscreen – encouraging younger players to learn more about how such transportation works.
Lamentably long loading screens and repeated graphical inconsistencies detract beyond this, only adding to more indications that Suspension Railroad Simulator clearly wasn’t ready for release. Scuppering the chance to make a name for itself by bringing new experiences to Wii U, it is only SilentFuture’s lack of care that remains apparent – derailing any potential enjoyment to be found.