Choo-Choo Charles Review
The horror genre tends to be prone to a lack of innovation. For years, developers hoping to spook players have relied on familiar jumpscare tropes without ever digging into what genuinely terrifies. It’s not what we can’t see but what we can. The monster that lurks beneath will never be a threat. It’s the one that wants you to know how horrible it is – the one that wants to look you in the eye – that will leave a lasting impression. That’s Choo-Choo Charles. And if you don’t hurry up, he’ll eat you alive.
Besides coming up with a razor-fanged, quick-as-a-hiccup murder train, Choo-Choo Charles’ writing staff isn’t going to win awards for creativity. There’s a brief explanation as to why you’ve ended up on the island before meeting Charles for the first time. After that, it’s off to the races to find a set of items required to summon – and, hopefully, kill – your foe. Though during its paltry 2-3 hour runtime, there’s hardly a moment to delve into anybody’s backstory. I suppose that’s the point. For better or worse, Choo-Choo Charles knows precisely what it wants to be and unapologetically takes a streamlined approach to the narrative.
Pale, Blank Stares
However, given that each character looks far worse than a Sears mannequin, I’m not convinced players will want to get to know them anyways. Choo-Choo Charles is a visual rollercoaster. At times, it offers scenic beauty that I found myself pleasantly surprised to discover. Other times, it looks about as good as something from the early 2000s. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Two Star Games was going for a “Plan 9 from Outer Space” vibe and wanted to make something that dripped with terrible awesomeness. If so, hats off to them.
The same could be said of the audio design. Voice acting leaves much to be desired, but the guttural noises that Charles makes as he approaches you can be horrifying. Admittedly, there were times I was rattling down the tracks, hair on the back of my neck standing on end, thinking I could hear Charles stalking me.
While you navigate the map, your train must be buffed using scavenged supplies. Basic missions that most often boil down to fetch quests net you the most significant rewards. And while the tasks themselves may seem menial, it’s essential to take the time to complete them. Not only does Charles attack at random, but there’s an overarching final encounter with him that’s made clear you must prepare for. It’s a simple, no-nonsense concept and one that I think Choo-Choo Charles benefits from. What else could we possibly need? There’s a killer train looking to tear you limb from limb on the loose—no need to bog that down with monotonous side tasks meant to pump a game’s playtime artificially.
But, then, it’s over. As I already mentioned, Choo-Choo Charles is sure to be one of the shortest titles you play all year. Just as soon as Charles tears through the trees and into sight for the first time, he’s gone. As the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but feel like Choo-Choo Charles should be compared to a stocking stuffer. A fun, cheap little trinket that you enjoy for a minute and then never touch again. I promise I mean that in the nicest way possible.
Will there ever be another Choo-Choo Charles? I sort of hope so. Sure, this first stab at it has issues, but there’s no reason Two Star Games can’t continue to mold this into a dark horse juggernaut. It may take years, but I hope it happens. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the future of this franchise.
***Steam key provided by the publisher***
- Fun, tight concept
- Charles’ audio design
- Too short
- Terrible character models
- Bad voice acting