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Hands-On: Toy Trains VR Successfully Captures Model Train Nostalgia

Hands-On: Toy Trains VR Successfully Captures Model Train Nostalgia

Toy Trains VR recaptures the childhood magic of model train sets. Available today on Quest, Steam and PSVR 2, here are our full impressions.

Model trains were a familiar sight for me growing up, so Toy Trains didn't take long to grab my attention. It's not the project I expected from Something Random, considering the team's comprised of former Superhot developers, making Toy Trains a pleasant surprise. Having spent over an hour on the Quest 3 version, I believe they've created a wonderfully cozy puzzle game.

What immediately struck me is how Toy Trains channels that feeling of childhood nostalgia. These interactive sets include small residents, like an overseer who provides guidance from a hot air balloon. Conversations unfold like a child imagining they're talking to someone, conveying excitement over simple pleasures like ice cream that cleverly fits the theme. Letters from your absent parents provide a thin narrative as you continue playing in your grandparent's attic.

So far, I've tried four levels, each following a similar structure. Each map centers around a construction site that becomes a landmark for your imagined town, like a city hall or local cinema. Your goal involves delivering materials to the construction site, connecting it to each resident's house by placing train tracks next to both. Once the route is complete, place a locomotive with attached wagons on the track, then pull a cord to activate it.

Toy Trains - Quest 3 screenshot
Toy Trains - Quest 3 screenshot

This straightforward premise holds surprising depth, and I particularly like the open-ended challenges. You aren't railroaded into a single method as every level contains multiple solutions, though there are a few ground rules to remember. Trees can't be built over; you can't merge tracks into an already complete layout, and crossing water requires bridges. This offers a relaxed creativity, letting you take proceedings at your own pace as you work out these puzzles, and more pieces are gradually unlocked after completing levels.

I'm impressed by the game's design. The only "menu" available is themed like an instruction booklet, and while there aren't any comfort settings, Toy Trains doesn't need them. Instead of simply pressing A for dialogue, residents have little arrows you pull next to their speech bubble to continue or end conversations. It's the small things that make this premise work, and Toy Trains is a natural fit for VR.

While I can't speak for other headsets yet, these colorful worlds look great on Quest 3 thanks to a strong presentation. Adding small details upon finishing levels like a campsite, leaves or hay is a nice touch, and I also like the subtle environmental interactions. Putting your hand through the trees feels like brushing it through blades of grass; the water splashes as you dip your hands in, and that's complemented by great sound design.

Toy Trains - Quest 3 screenshot
Toy Trains - Quest 3 screenshot

My only complaint so far is more of a feature request, and that's me wanting mixed reality support. I've got no issues with the attic setting; it's a charming, fully immersive environment, but I'd love something similar to LEGO Bricktales VR, where you can place that LEGO world on your real-life table. Such an approach for Toy Trains could work well.

Toy Trains arrives on January 16 on PC VR, PSVR 2 and the Meta Quest platform, with a free demo available on Steam. A Pico version will follow, though a release date is unconfirmed.

Notice: This article was initially published on January 11, 2024. It was updated on January 16, 2024, to reflect the launch.

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