Going with the Flow
Times sure are strange, huh? It’s weird how many things we’ve taken for granted that we aren’t able to access as readily right now. It’s also kind of funny how easy it is to miss those things—be they working, going to school, casually shopping, or, say… making use of public transit. Now, don’t worry; I’m not going to be all doom and gloom throughout this review. But I do think that a lot of us have found ourselves wishing that we could do things that we used to consider mundane, or even something that we might not normally even want to do, which is why games like STATIONflow—games that reflect simple parts of our own reality—feel especially pertinent right now. Or maybe not. I don’t know, it kind of all depends on how you see things. Enough about perspective, though; onward, to the game itself!
Step by Step
STATIONflow has no story, no character development, and no dynamic twists and turns. But, considering what kind of game this is, it doesn’t need any of those things. No, instead, STATIONflow focuses on one thing, and one thing alone; building the best subway station ever. …Or, at least, the best one that you can. And, to accomplish that, you’ve only got to do to things: 1) Keep people happy, and 2) Keep your profits out of the red. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not King Management Sim over here (although I’m not a complete newbie), so I was a little worried about being able to get everything up and running (quite literally). Fortunately, STATIONflow seems to be quite aware of this and is kind enough to provide players with a tutorial that is both easy-to-understand and fairly quick.
Even without the tutorial, though, it doesn’t take long to realize that STATIONflow‘s approach to gameplay takes an approach doused in nearly as much minimalism as its visual aesthetics. Despite being a subway station management simulation, there’s minimal emphasis on the subways themselves. Instead, STATIONflow is almost entirely about setting the station up properly, and ensuring that it continues to run smoothly as the player encounters new kinds of obstacles. In the beginning, there are literally only three things to worry about; walkways, signs, and stairs. Building walkways and staircases is seamless, user-friendly and allows for a certain degree of freedom in terms of architectural creativity (although you don’t necessarily want to go haywire with that). The main focus of both of these structures is to, of course, connect the various subway entrances and platforms to one another. And, so long as you’ve done that, you’re good to go. Right? Well, not necessarily.
Just in case you’ve never had to use the subway, or, for some reason, have never been to a train station and/or airport, let me tell you a little something about places like this; they can be really confusing. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s incredibly easy to get lost. Naturally, this means that the citizens of the STATIONflow world would get lost, too, should they be left to wander the stations without any guidance. And that, my friends, is where signs come in. Now, I don’t have a lot to say about signs that isn’t already immediately obvious; you place them to guide subway-users to the correct locations. However, signs aren’t typically a “one-and-done” type of thing. Because STATIONflow doesn’t give you access to every single entrance and platform right away, you’ll most likely find yourself having to constantly add to each of these signs. And, while that wouldn’t be a big deal, it can get confusing quite quickly if you have a lot of them to change around.
A Real People Person
Seeing as how your subway system is made specifically to transport people around, it would be pretty bad if everyone started hating what you made and stopped visiting it. Fortunately, you can avoid such a fate by simply bending to their every whim! Admittedly, this, like everything else, is pretty easy in the beginning. After all, the only thing you need to worry about is directing people around. That doesn’t last forever, though. In fact, it isn’t very long before the game beings throwing curveballs at the player in the form of additional visitor requests and needs—such as vending machines, restrooms, and first aid stations—and new visitor types—such as the elderly, who can’t use stairs—meaning that players who aren’t prepared might find themselves frantically re-modeling their station while watching their satisfaction rates temporarily plummet (because building takes time, after all). On one hand, I can certainly appreciate that STATIONflow methodically amps up the difficulty level. However, I can’t help but feel that doing things like forcing the player to re-model just to accommodate passengers who previously weren’t even there can be a bit frustrating at times. I guess that’s just part of life, though, huh?
I feel like that my whole “playing games that feel like real life” analogy that I made during the beginning of this review might be a bit off the mark. And that’s because, after finally getting to the end review, I realized that STATIONflow is nothing like using an actual subway. It’s simple, straightforward, clean, easy to understand, and has a very soothing soundtrack on constant rotation. But, eh, I suppose that that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that STATIONflow is pretty fun. I’m not sure that it’s going to draw in anyone who wasn’t already a fan of this kind of thing, but that’s not the end of the world. If you like architecture and are looking for something to do to pass the time, you might want to stop by ol’ STATIONflow and see what direction it takes you.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Developer: DMM Games; Publisher: DMM Games; Players: 1; Released: April 15, 2020 ; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $17.99
Full disclosure: A PC copy of STATIONflow was provided by the publisher.