I enjoy the absurd, silly, and downright stupid, as the Goat Simulator 3 review demonstrates, so when I heard about a game in which you face off against the demon Thomas the Tank Engine, I was appropriately excited. However, even though the premise of Choo-Choo Charles makes me extremely happy, the adventure itself is far less interesting than I had anticipated. Sadly, even though the game is a comedy disguised as horror, it lacks both humor and terror at the same time. Even though it only lasts about 90 minutes, I found myself looking for a way to get off this crazy train much sooner.
Although Choo-Choo Charles appears to be nightmare fuel on the outside, the game is just a long joke. Your adventure kicks off with a bang when you board a train with a gun on it and are confronted with an evil railcar with spider legs right away. But since those first few minutes are the best part of the whole thing, you can expect a boring ride after that. You will have to travel around an island and complete quests for NPCs to upgrade your weapons and boost the stats of your train to kill Charles. In the end, you will face old Choo-Choo himself in a final confrontation. Its intentionally funny nature can be seen in everything, from the absurd characters to the absurd tasks it assigns you, like finding a jar of pickles for a woman who is obsessed with the fermented foods. However, most of those things aren’t particularly funny.
Although Choo-Choo Charles’ outrageous story may appear to be the ideal starting point for a hilarious journey, it rarely succeeds in being funny due to dull writing and forgettable characters who do not even attempt to capitalize on the farcical goldmine. Although the dialogue being read plays things much more straightforward, I couldn’t help but repeatedly shake my head at all the missed opportunities for mischief. The voice acting is appropriately silly and doesn’t take itself seriously, which is great. An NPC explains that you can upgrade your train without acknowledging how insane that idea is. Another NPC asks you to get revenge for her husband’s death but doesn’t make a big deal with the fact that her beloved was eaten by a bad train. It hurts that everything was so painfully unfunny.
The majority of the time, you’ll be riding your train through barren and empty landscapes, stopping to collect scrap metal or complete a boring quest that may require you to retrieve an item for someone or lockpick a nearby chest in a very boring lockpicking minigame. The straightforward main quest requires you to locate three eggs, which are believed to be the offspring of Choo-Choo Charles and can be used to lure him into a final death match. You will need to talk to three NPCs who will give you the same information about those eggs. After that, they will take you into a mine to steal the egg, where you will have to avoid stupid cultists with shotguns in horrifying stealth sections.
These brief segments consist essentially of a series of hallways filled with masked enemies that you must avoid. Other than the weapons you keep on your train, you won’t be given any weapons, so you’ll have to sneak around and wait for NPCs to pass or just run by them because they’re slow, stupid, and have poor aim. Since you only can lean left or right to look around corners from cover, sneaking is aggressively unpleasant. You can’t even crouch to help you fight, distract enemies, or do stealth takedowns. For me, it was more bearable to simply run past everything, grab the egg, and head out the door. Or, if you want to be cheeky, just lead the enemies out of the mine, get in your train, and shoot them with your guns—though doing that takes a lot of time.
Now and then, as the story progresses, you’ll hear a sinister train whistle and realize that you’re getting closer to a confrontation, but there’s no excitement because it’s the same thing every time. You will need to keep moving and use any weapons you have to do some damage when the train appears before Charles retreats to heal and resume the predictable process. You will almost certainly be murdered in the early stages of the adventure because you will be far too weak to confront the evil locomotive. There will be almost no repercussions for your actions. But if you get a few new weapons and upgrades, like the deadly flamethrower or the rocket launcher, which takes a long time to reload, you’ll be able to easily defeat Charles.
The fact that each of these encounters is the same is just so disappointing. Choo-Choo Charles simply swipes at you as he follows your train until you cause enough damage to make him leave you alone, then repeats the process. In any event, when you get to the last standoff, which took me under two hours the twice I beat it, the main change is that he gets greater and at times magically transports to mislead you. The evil presence train involves no new assaults or shocks you in any capacity, meaning each time you face him after the initial time is only an anticipated modest as you coast along the rail line. The potential apprehension factor is all drained out of the experience and supplanted with repetitiveness.
Choo Charles has an unmistakably low-spending plan feel, similar to how every one of the NPCs seems as though they’re characters in The Senior Parchments IV: Oblivion and they speak without moving their lips. Here and there that works for its absurdist style, yet in others, it’s less charmingly terrible and all the more through and through baffling, similar to how it sporadically messes without. For instance, the upgrade menu appeared during the final cut scene, delaying my viewing of the entire campaign’s conclusion until my second play-through. Even though it is unpolished, that level of jank just kind of sucks, which makes sense for a game that was made to be so sarcastic.
The adventure in Choo-Choo Charles is a silly mess, and the jokey premise never quite delivers the punchline. Combat against the evil train is always tedious and repetitious, and running quests on foot is even less appealing due to the awful stealth sections that take you through decaying hallways. When you add in some irritating bugs and a lifeless, empty map, this funny idea fails in so many ways that it angers me. Unfortunately, I must advise you to choose a different activity.