Wednesday, 7 September 2011

DenGo Yamanote Line - iOS

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my love for the Densha de Go! series. I can't get enough of speeding through Tokyo and surrounding areas, trying to reach the next station on time with a carriage full of happy passengers.

Well there's a new addition to the series - this time on iPhone and iPad - called DenGo! Yamanote Line. Yes, once again Taito have based their neat little game on Japan's most famous rail line - but unfortunately, this is a half-baked version which fails to match the fun of previous titles.

Initially, DenGo! Yamanote Line looks to have everything in place - both inner and outer loops of the Yamanote line are here - complete with 29 stations - and all the familiar sounds from the series are present, including the announcements which are read out in Japanese and English.

The touch screen controls work extremely well, with vertical swipes used to control the train and the framerate is smooth, with no sign of the graphical pop-up which has blighted the series in the past.

The Arcade mode breaks the line into small chunks, challenging the player to reach a series of stations on time, while the Free Run feature lets players pick and choose their starting points. Even the menu's pop-rock track fits the bill perfectly but unfortunately, it doesn't take long for things to derail.

Part of the joy of previous games in the series was travelling at different times of the day and night in varying weather conditions. Sadly, you only ever seem to travel in the morning under blue skies - a real shame as the subtle lighting effects gave the game some much-needed cosmetic flair, while rainy conditions affected stopping distances and speeds.

Another problem is the lack of action on the tracks. All the games so far have featured other trains going about their business, something which helped liven things up a bit. But here, the tracks are always empty - especially strange as you are driving on Japan's busiest line.

The workmen from Densha de Go! Final are also sadly absent. A quick blast of the horn when approaching these white-suited gents rewarded the player with bonus points, but as they are now nowhere to be found, the inclusion of a horn seems largely redundant.

External views have also been scrapped, leaving the player with the default bumper camera. Again, this is another cosmetic change, but it's unfortunate that Taito saw fit to scrap this extra feature.

Densha De Go! Final - and the PSP series of games - featured the chain point scoring system, which rewarded the player for hitting target speeds along the route. Sadly, since then, this system has been scrapped and Railfan (PS3), Densha de Go! Showa Yamanote Line (DS) and now this version all suffer because of its absence.

DenGo! Yamanote Line costs 800yen (£6.45) and it's possible to buy extra trains via in-app purchases. There are also 30 Game Center achievements to grab but the whole experience simply feels rushed.

Trundling between stations is fun in short bursts but those looking for portable Densha de Go! fun would be much better off hunting down any of the PSP games or taking the plunge with last year's fab DS title.

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