Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Attack Pla-Rail (Arcade)

I'm sure most of you have probably heard of Taito's Densha De Go series of train-driving games, based on real Japanese train routes and with an array of specialist controllers associated with the home ports. Attack Pla-Rail, made by Namco and based on a toyline by Tomy seems to be either an attempt at making a rival for that series, or a version of it that aims for a younger audience. The controls, as far as I can tell without having yet played any of the Densha De Go games, are pretty much the same: a lever for controlling your speed, and a few buttons for making decisions and parping your horn.

The most obvious difference between Attack Pla-Rail and its better-known rival is the aesthetic: while Densha De Go aims towards realism, this game gives every object a plastic sheen, and people, vehicles and other objects are very simple. Because they're all toys, obviously. Also playing into the toy aspect is that your time limit is given in the form of remaining battery life, with different trains having different rates of usage, along with differing top speeds and corner handling abilities. You get more batteries by doing different tasks, though they're very simple things: speeding up to go through a loop, beeping your horn at cows, stopping while a bridge gets into place, and so on.

Obviously, with the mention of loops and such, you can already guess that the routes in this game aren't based on any from real life, and that's true. Instead, there's an Outrun-esque system of stages with branching paths between them, though unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any information regarding the total number of stages, or a diagram of where every branching path takes the player. You do go through five stages before the game ends, though that doesn't mean there are fifteen in total like in Outrun, as late in one run, I encountered a stage that had appeared early in another run on a different route. A nice touch is that once you've finished your five stages, you get to use your remaining battery power on a cool-looking night time stage with no obstacles to navigate.

It's a lot more relaxing than the usual excitement you'd want from an arcade game, but despite that (or maybe because of it), Attack Pla-Rail is still a fun game, though since it has no sequels or home ports, I have to say that if it was intended to take custom away from the Densha De Go series, it's had the opposite effect, as it's got me looking up the games and their controllers on ebay, wanting more in a similar vein.

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