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  • Writer's pictureKane Vallance

Review: Choo Choo Charles

Choo-Choo Charles is a survival horror indie title about a blood-thirsty train named Charles. He has a clown face and spider legs. This abomination has been terrorizing an island full of miners, and you are hired to hunt him down once and for all.

Game Director: Gavin Eisenbeisz

Vocal Cast: Kevin Clay, Giordan Diaz, C. J. Ellis

Choo Choo Charles is unashamedly a wild, cheesy, over the top ride that doesn’t let up once through its entire two-three hour playing time. Naturally, its ridiculous concept is what will draw the majority of players to this long-anticipated indie game, and it’s ridiculous concept runs through and through. However, it’s clunky nature at times prevents it from being the perfect indie horror game that it almost could be. 

Whether you’re talking about the fact the character models quite literally don’t move their mouths when they speak, or being unable to fight off enemies that can kill you with three hits if you’re not on your own train, the game feels sometimes quite difficult to play through no fault of the players’ own. Whereas some games like the early stages of Resident Evil 7, for example, thrive off of us not being able to fight back, here it swiftly becomes a source of genuine agitation—particularly when we’re exploring places underground like the mines or buildings far away from the base train we spend a lot of our downtime in. Occasional glitches with the game’s early state also make it difficult to run away from these foes at times, which makes it all the more aggravating when it leads to your death. 

Yet, with that said, the sheer sense of balls to the wall fun that comes with the game prevents it almost entirely from being bogged down by its present flaws. Eisenbeisz’s focus on the ridiculous nature of the concept and plot allows for you to be fully immersed in the world at hand, with Charles devoted cultists, alien train eggs, and the literal demonic train of Charles itself. It’s like if Thomas the Tank Engine took cocaine and became Satan, and it somehow works. With the simple yet enjoyable upgrades we can make to our train, and the genuinely intense and often scary encounters with the titular antagonist, you can’t help but be gripped for the full three hours. 

I loved collecting scrap and exploring the map, indulging in the wacky side characters and their quests, and building up the train ready for the intense final boss battle with Hell Charles (another stupid concept pulled off to campy perfection), even when I was being delayed by the irritating side antagonists. It’s story is admittedly thin, but the small tidbits of world building and the simplicity oddly serve the game well, not dwelling on lore and exposition, and instead just letting us play and have fun being terrified. 

At the end of the day, silly concepts, entertaining gameplay, and fun cutscenes make Choo Choo Charles an overall excellent comical indie horror experience; although what could be genuine independent gaming perfection is held back by what should be easily fixed flaws. 

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