Choo-Choo Charles

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Choo-Choo Charles review
Camrin Santchi


Rail Shooter

All Aboard

"Half train, Half giga-spider from hell." These are some of the first words players will hear in regards to the titular Charles when they boot up Choo-Choo Charles, which is a fitting description not just of the villain of the game but the game itself and even the concept- which began with the creator 'smushing' together a train asset and a giant spider asset as a sort of proto-Charles as a joke. But does this game ride the rails to success, as a cult classic or otherwise, or does it run out of steam?

Half Train

A gamer's best defence as well as offense against Charles and anything else that comes their way in Choo-Choo Charles is the small train that they receive at the start of the game. Starting rather weak and slow, its armour, firepower, and speed can all be upgraded by collecting scrap that players will either find throughout the island or be given as rewards for completing quests for some of the NPCs that you'll come across that have survived Charles' rampage. These survivors heavily reminded this reviewer of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, though they didn't even flap their gums- faces remaining stoic and still even as they spoke to our unseen player character. Full credit to Gavin Eisenbeisz, the sole developer of Choo-Choo Charles, so there is no insult intended when discussing this. Merely trying to give the game a fair review!

In fact, the corniness of lacking lip flaps kind of adds to the experience - particularly with characters taking every wacky thing they say beyond seriously, from asking you to provide vengeance against the spider-train to demanding you retrieve their stash of pickles. There's a certain 'narm charm' if you will, that makes even relatively uncanny things seem downright charming in their own way, and Choo-Choo Charles checks those boxes impressively.

The main exploration of the game is done through the winding train tracks across the island that are clearly marked along the map, which is impressively a 'live-feed' of sorts, enemies can be seen from above as they scatter and react to your presence, and you can even watch as your train puffs down the tracks. You are of course free to step off your train and explore on foot - but that leaves you much more vulnerable to Charles and the other threats on the island.

Half Giga-Spider

Fittingly, stepping away from the 'Train' section leads to the 'Giga-Spider' section of Choo-Choo Charles. Whenever away from your train you're less likely to catch the attention of Charles, sure, but you're completely helpless against the cult of Charles (mask wearing baddies that have set up several camps on the island) with the exception of some minor stealth that is tragically clunky but functional. At no point is the protagonist given the option to pick up one of the shotguns that the cult wields, meaning unless you hotfoot it back to your train, you're helpless in a fight. And considering several missions set you at a distance from the train and deep into mines or far from tracks, players may end up finding themselves relieved whenever they're able to return to their brightly coloured train.

There are very few reasons to explore far off the beaten path of train tracks - which limits the amount of the island that you may be willing to explore. As the further you are from your train, the more likely you'll reach an untimely end before making it back if Charles is scuttling about nearby. There are some quests that take you far from the train, fittingly directly referencing other horror games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender. This reviewer actually found a decent amount of humour in the relief and comfort of returning to the train after a mission took me quite a ways from it, hearing Charles' threatening train whistle looming in the distance.

End of the Line

In all, Choo-Choo Charles is an impressively made game for only having one person working on it - and what flaws it has don't get in the way of an overall solid experience. The game leans on its ridiculousness but also manages to keep an entertaining amount of tension due to the seemingly constant presence of the spider-train, heralded only by his horn. There isn't always a lot to see away from the train tracks or specific quests noted on the map, but that isn't a necessity in a game like Choo-Choo Charles - and despite its relatively short length this is one train this reviewer would recommend picking up a ticket.

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fun score


Intentionally corny, Impressively complete and solid


Uncanny Valley, Stealth, Limited exploration