By Michael Fontanini / June 9th, 2020
|Release Date||April 15th, 2020|
STATIONflow is an indie game about building an underground train station. As your station grows, you’ll have more train platforms and entrances funneling more and more travelers through your corridors. As your station rank increases, you’ll have to deal with new needs that your passengers develop, and build new areas in your station to satisfy them. Keeping all of those little virtual people happy is very important, unless you like being bankrupt! How long can you keep your station running successfully?
Early on, your main goal in STATIONflow is to connect all entrances to the initial train platform so travelers can get where they need to go. You can see above that there are two rail lines in a station platform, in this case lines P1 and P2. Then you’ll need to add some directional signs at intersections and must set them up to tell the travelers how to navigate your station. You can copy and paste settings from one directional sign to another with a pair of shortcut keys, which is super handy later when your station is much bigger. Once you get things set up, the money will start rolling in.
As time passes and your station rank increases, you’ll periodically unlock more things to build. This includes escalators and elevators. There are also special rooms you can build as your guests develop new needs. Very early in the game, the first needs you’ll have to start dealing with are hunger and thirst. Later on you’ll have to add ticket booths, as passengers getting off one train and going to another one at a different platform will need to get a ticket first. You’ll also eventually need to deal with elderly guests who need escalators or elevators, and handicapped travelers who require elevators. These aren’t the only obstacles that await a growing station, though.
STATIONflow doesn’t just give you more to worry about in terms of passenger needs and facilities in your station. As the game gives you more entrances and train platforms to contend with, you’ll have ever more virtual little people in their colorful outfits running around in your creation. Some of your corridors will inevitably become crowded and they will start running into each other and getting clogged up a bit. You can plan ahead for some of this by building wider corridors. Stairs come in several sizes, while corridors can be built more free-form. One place in particular where you will be likely to see traffic jams is at your stairs/escalator/elevator areas. You may need to build more of these in the area to allow for more passengers to get through at a time as the station expands.
Some of the icons in the images may look a bit confusing, but they’re not at all. The yellow boxes are the contents you’ve set in directional signs, and you can toggle HUD overlays on/off by categories. Each stairway/escalator/elevator has its own built-in pair of directional signs (at the top and bottom). These signs can also guide people to facilities like food, drink, bathrooms, etc. A letter in a circle refers to a train station. An icon that looks like a letter on a door refers to an entrance. In either case, it may also have a number after it to refer to a specific one in a set. For example, entrance A2. If the sign just has A with no number, then it tells your passengers that all entrances in group A are in this direction. Stations can also have a number. P1 would refer to the first rail line at station P. In the image above, there are three train stations (P, Q, and R), which you can see on the HUD on the right.
The HUD in STATIONflow also shows your station rank, number of active rail lines and entrances (you can enable/disable them at will), your money, number of passengers in the station and their happiness. You get a summary at the end of each in-game day that shows how you did budget-wise, and in other ways like happiness level and daily rating. Some HUD elements can be clicked on for more detailed information, like your budget. You can also take out loans if you get into some financial troubles. Various facilities have upkeep costs, and may be a net drain on your budget. As your station grows and reaches higher ranks, you have to be more careful with placing more facilities, as they get more expensive to build and run. You can run your finances off a cliff into the red easily if you’re not careful! Trust me, my first station went bankrupt at station rank 16. Healthcare facilities are expensive!
The gameplay of STATIONflow is fun, though certain aspects of it can be a bit tedious on occasion (like managing directional signs in larger stations). Other times it may seem all heck breaks loose, as lots of people in your station start getting bent out of shape about some problem all at once unexpectedly! Then you need to figure out what’s going on. Oftentimes this is because you messed up a directional sign so people can’t figure out how to get to their destination, which makes them understandably cranky! You can pause time if you need to, and there are three speeds you can set it at when it’s not paused. Navigating the station is very quick and easy. You can use the F and C keys to jump up or down a floor, and pan/rotate with the mouse. You can also click on the HUD to do so, but who wants to do that? Another minor gameplay issue is that during construction corridors do odd things sometimes, like snapping where you don’t want them to.
STATIONflow has a very nice soundtrack that is upbeat and relaxing, while fitting the game very well. The sound effects are also well done and bring the world to life a bit more (especially since the graphics are on the minimalist side, though that’s not a bad thing).
STATIONflow is a fun little indie game that can keep you entertained for a lot of time. While the game comes with seven maps to play on, there is also a level editor so you can make your own maps. These can also be uploaded to Steam Workshop for others to play. The tutorial level is really only a tutorial early on, and then plays like a normal level after that. You can easily spend lots of hours on one station, so there’s more gameplay there than you may think. It also depends on how you play. For example, it’s affected by which time speed you prefer to have the simulation on and how well you run your station. It is an open-ended simulation game after all, not a win/lose kind of thing. The level editor and player-generated content can add infinite playtime as well.
Just realize this is not the most polished game in existence. It’s just a bit rough around the edges as I mentioned. I ran my station for a little over 15 hours until it unfortunately went bankrupt! This is a game over for you if that happens, but you can always jump back to one of your recent saves and try to rescue your station from reaching that fate again. STATIONflow is available on Steam for $17.99, and the soundtrack is also available to purchase if you wish. Can you juggle facilities and keep all of your guests happy to run a successful underground station?
Review copy provided by publisher.