The game’s artstyle is very colorful and quirky, much like its themes. Characters are shown in 2D renders that possess a cartoon style, adding to the humor. Their designs are reminiscent of the time being depicted, yet still maintaining a degree of individuality that sets them apart from each other and makes it easy to identify who’s who.
Most of the game takes place on 2D maps with an isometric view, allowing for great details on the different items shown scattered around, be them trees to cut down or structures to build. There are, however, plenty of 3D models depicting the moving units. These are mostly representing your workers, but they also appear as people in the town you will be fixing, symbolizing how it grows and gets populated. Another area of smooth animation is the trains, and you can see them come and go as you fix the different railroads. It all has quite a charm to it, like having your own digital model trains.
While there’s not much in the form of story, there is enough to give life to the game. In the previous installment, the railroad company managed to make a fortune paving the roads for the future, but this game starts with all that fortune being gambled away in the very first minute.
That means that you will have to get to work all over again and recover those gains, and with some luck keep them too. The characters banter with each other all the time about the best way to progress at each stage, and while it serves the function of a tutorial it also gives the game its comical personality, giving a nice little chuckle before starting a new level.
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In terms of gameplay, your goal on each level is to fix the railroad and any nearby buildings to bring everything up to standards so the service can continue uninterrupted. To do this you start each level with a single worker, and you can send them from the home base to different areas of the map to complete different tasks.
You will be constantly managing two resources: wood and money. You need wood to fix basically anything that you find, from bridges to houses, and you need money for your workers. The more demanding the task you send them on, the more money they ask. This is balanced by the only task that requires no effort, taking mail. These mail boxes spawn randomly around the map, and you simply send a worker to get it and it nets you some money.
The main challenge of the game is to balance when to send your workers to do something, understanding how long each thing takes and how it connects to everything else. If you are on a level that requires plenty of wood, you might want to fix the woodchipper building first, since it produces wood passively.
However, on levels that need plenty of money, you might want to focus on the railroad first, since each time a train passes through it pays a toll to you. The first few levels have the order of operations plainly obvious, since they work mostly as tutorials, but on later levels the challenge ramps up and you have to make quick decisions as to where to send who and what to upgrade.
The gold you make on the stages is used to fix the main town, growing in size and population as you upgrade each building. Every construction is represented in different stages, and they have their own illustration for when the boards are first laid on the ground, to the point where the edifice is fully functional.
Next Stop 2 is a fun and even funny game that will take up most of your afternoon as you try to complete just one more level. Its charm and humor are sure to hook anyone, and its level of strategy can get pretty deep for veterans of the genre. Certainly a title you don’t want to miss.
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