Ticket To Ride Review

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Ticket To Ride Publisher: Playful Entertainment
Developer: Next Level Games

Platforms: PC and Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Compete against other railroad barons to connect cities with profitable routes, building the most impressive rail network on the continent in this Xbox Live Arcade version of the classic train-themed board game.

Kyle Ackerman

Sometimes I have to embrace my inner child. And what do children like? Well, somewhere after ice cream comes trains. Of course, this is my inner child, so a game about trains seems even better. Especially when it comes with lots of plastic pieces and shiny cards. That makes Ticket To Ride, a board game based on building a rail system, a great pastime.

The game might seem complex at first glance, but it's actually simple to learn. Players collect cards that can be used to build train lines marked on a map. Only one player can occupy any given train line, so the key to victory is completing routes before your opponents do. Each player has a limited pool of train cars with which to fill routes, and when those cars are (almost) gone, the game is over. The real competition, however, comes from tickets, which award you large bonuses for connecting specific cities. Fail to connect those cities, and you suffer an equally large penalty. Players may be building vastly different train networks based on their tickets, or competing closely, making each game of Ticket To Ride different.

Ticket To Ride's debut on Xbox Live Arcade isn't the first time this board game has been released as an electronic version. In fact, you can try out the game for free at Days of Wonder's online play site. You pay a premium there for community features and a few other perks. So the Xbox Live Arcade version has this major problem: Ticket To Ride is competing against itself in a browser-based version that's free to play.

My biggest problem with the Xbox Live Arcade version of Ticket To Ride is that it isn't Ticket To Ride: Europe. The original game was very clever, but a few refinements in the rules made Ticket To Ride: Europe a vastly superior game. What's the difference? Ticket To Ride: Europe added "stations" that let players complete tickets (at a cost) when routes became blocked by other players. Stations allow all players to stay in the running throughout the game, while in the original Ticket To Ride, one player can easily block another player, leaving that player to ritualistically play out the remainder of the game, knowing he will lose. Or, as is wont to happen on Xbox Live, to quit the match.

The original game was good, but if Ticket To Ride: Europe had been implemented as solidly as Ticket To Ride, I would have to award it five out of five stars. It's that good. Ticket To Ride is fun, but flawed. Clearly, the interface is set up to release Ticket To Ride: Europe as a later addition, but it's not just another multiplayer map – it's a much better game with refinements that transform play. Ticket To Ride: Europe is accessible to all players, and the Days of Wonder site already features this version of the game. Ticket To Ride is more of a pastime for those of us who are hardcore board game geeks.

Just like in the board game, the Xbox Live Arcade version supports up to five players (only four can play locally – limited by the number of controllers). The Xbox Live Arcade version even supports the Xbox Live Vision camera, so you can capture that face-to-face board gaming feel. There are AI bots that can play competently, at several levels of difficulty, but they don't present the challenge posed by practiced, living foes. The graphics are adequate – experienced players will see everything they need at the lowest level of zoom, but new players will find they need to zoom in on sections of the map and scroll around, a process that can be awkward.

The real advantage of an electronic version of Ticket To Ride is that the Xbox 360 can keep track of scoring, ticket destinations and cards for you. You can't lose the plastic pieces in the electronic version or have the dog chew up the train cars. And Ticket To Ride lets you play a great board game with partners available for play any time of day or night. Unfortunately, Ticket To Ride: Europe would be more accessible to new players and more fun for everyone, and is clearly intended to be a premium expansion. So despite being a solid game, you can play in a PC web browser for a lot less than the 800 points ($10) the Xbox Live Arcade version demands, and you get to play Ticket To Ride: Europe right off the bat.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 3, 2008 8:16 PM.

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