Find your way home in The Endless Express

Itch.io is almost always a good place for novel video game ideas. A quick flick through my homepage of suggestions led to me stumbling upon this odd, quirky little Unity-developed game that I later discovered is actually a follow-up to a 2014 jam game. This newly revised version was, ultimately, considered too ambitious for the development team to complete, thus leading to the decision to release it in its current state. In this state, it’s clear that its concepts are relatively underdeveloped, though it rarely shows its imperfections, and is a charming little title that left me wondering what could have been.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 18.40.09

The Endless Express is a simple game; the player only has to make their way home, navigating the in-game world’s system of trains by bouncing from station to station to catch connecting trains. This, as well as the variety in the station environments and inhabitants, feels not too dissimilar to taking a cross-country trip, finding a sense of wanderlust from travelling between towns. Along the way, the player may meet other travellers – typically small backpacking frogs – or the denizens living near the train stations. Some of them have problems, some of them want to be left alone, some of them are also travelling. It’s the one part of The Endless Express I wish was a little more fleshed out, as the interactions serve little function other than adding a dash of character to each area.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 18.46.13

What is shown of The Endless Express is an incredibly intriguing, if brief, exploration game; the occasions on which its rough edges become apparent are less an annoyance, rather a shame. Apparently inconsequential interactions with NPCs, a presumably unused inventory system, and minimal interactions with the world serves only to remind the player that The Endless Express is, essentially, an unfinished product. And yet, though its concept remains unrealised in its video game form, what is inferred is so charming that it’s not hard to wonder what could have been.

The Endless Express is available to download for free on itch.io for PC, Mac and Linux, and I would definitely recommend giving it if but a few minutes of your time. I also feel inclined to recommend developer Florian Veltman’s heartwarming tribute to their grandmother, Lieve Oma.

The Endless Express (PC, Mac, Linux)
Released 2016

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