Choo-Choo Charles lets you ride the rails to Hell on a suspenseful and short train ride – Hands-on impressions

All aboard!

Image via Two Star Games

Choo-Choo Charles is an indie horror title that takes you to an island in desperate need of help, as its residents must hide from Charles: a rampaging train giga-spider from Hell. You are quickly given a train of your own to use as both your only means of attack and defense against the monster. Choo-Choo Charles is equally a thrilling joyride and a lovable mess that I couldn’t help but enjoy despite its quirks and mishaps.

The game has many promising features and a wildly outlandish yet intriguing story that takes you across the island in a metal death machine, hunting for eggs that will put an end to Charles. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Despite being very off the walls, the game kept me on the edge of my seat and I might have PTSD from the noise of train horns now.

A not-so-joyous ride

Image via Two Star Games

Developed by Two Star Games, the gameplay of Choo-Choo Charles revolves around you collecting scrap from around the map to upgrade your train, obtaining weapons to increase your firepower, and hiding from Charles as he roams the map looking for his next snack. While you might be tempted to stay on your train and cry, you must venture out into the wilderness to complete quests and obtain items to help you slay the evil train entity.

Two Star Games did a fantastic job of adding elements of suspense through the use of sound. As you roam the island, the only method you have of locating Charles is by sound. Sure, you might see him coming, but not before hearing an ominous train whistle in the distance signaling his arrival. Upon hearing that noise, I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder to see where Charles would spring out from as I ran back to the safety of my train. Sound also comes into play when avoiding smaller, humanoid enemies in mines armed with shotguns. As the guards make their rounds, they whistle train tunes that stick with the railroading theme of the game. Get caught by the guards and you will be running for your life since the only weapons you have are onboard your train.

A wild story, weird NPCs, and a few mistakes

Image via Two Star Games

From the moment you are welcomed to the island, you are told of the horror that is Charles roaming the land. Before seeing his face, you are already met with tense emotions as you know that Charles could be around any corner. Your only direction is to find the eggs since it is the only way you can lure Charles into a one-on-one deathmatch. There are multiple NPCs you will meet along the way from the Pickle Lady, who can’t help but love pickles and has a stance that looks like she should be riding a horse, to Daryl, a man with lockpicks and no idea how to use them. Each NPC is amusing but lacks a personality other than simply being weird.

I have nothing against the story and thought it felt like a fun mix between mythical horror and a campfire tale. The strange nature of it kept me amused and wanting more, but like a horror story around a campfire, it ended too soon. My first playthrough took me roughly four hours while completing all of the available side and weapon missions. At least it made me jump a few times along the way.

Image via Two Star Games

Certain aspects of Choo-Choo Charles felt lackluster. While the gameplay was great, the absence of a sneak mechanic threw me off. You must resort to leaning and it seems that the enemies can sense you through walls at times since I was caught while hiding behind a door more than once. The art style is great for the type of game it is, but small blemishes stuck out, like the lack of NPC mouth movement. I would definitely recommend you take a ride on the indie horror express — but I wouldn’t make it a priority.