Wednesday, October 25, 2006 at 7:30 pm

Sid Meier’s Railroads!

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The original Railroad Tycoon was one of those computer games — most of which were designed by Sid Meier — which earned the label “insidious” from me. The kind of games that you kept playing because you had just one more thing to do, and then suddenly you looked out the window and the sun was coming up, and you realized that you’d just played the damn game all night.

Meier moved on to other projects, and Railroad Tycoon‘s sequels — RT Deluxe, RT 2 and RT 3 — had their plusses and minuses, but inevitably were variations on a theme, refinements rather than innovations. Mostly they improved graphics, added scenarios and maps, and added locomotives (not all of which were worth playing), but you could argue that the pure gameplay was never as good as it was in the original, for all its crude simplicity. One thing I miss, for example, was signal towers and rate wars: challenges without which certain aspects of the game were just too simple. (Yes, even RT 2 was simple in my books: I played it a lot.)

So in the last issue of Trains I notice an ad for a new game: Sid Meier’s Railroads! And I make with the “whaaaa?!” and investigate further, because I had not heard about this before. (I use a Mac and so am not up to speed on PC game developments.) So it turns out that Meier’s company has regained the rights to the Railroad Tycoon franchise and is putting out this game under a new name (whose exclamation point evokes Meier’s earlier Pirates!). You could, I guess, call it Railroad Tycoon 4, but in some ways it seems a spiritual successor to the original, rather than its sequels. It seems a good deal more whimsical, for example. And signalling is back.

So my father e-mailed today to report that his copy of the game just arrived. I look forward to his report with great interest, because I’ll probably pounce on the game when the Mac port is released. (I’ve heard nothing about such a port, but it’s all but certain. It’ll just come a few months later, is all.) But, ominously, the reviews on are not very positive: I don’t know whether that means that Meier fans have very high standards, or whether they’re fans of the sequels.

If you’ve got the game, let me know what you think in the comments!

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