Nearly half a year after its action-oriented take on Snake, the folks at NimbleBit are back again with a free-to-play title much closer to its time management roots. Indeed, from as superficial standpoint, Pocket Trains [Free] shares some of the aesthetic and gameplay formula of Pocket Planes [Free]. However, behind the similarities is an excellent transportation management title that offers deeper strategic gameplay than its spiritual predecessor. Combine this with NimbleBit's penchant for fair IAP balancing, and Pocket Trains is yet another fun title that needs to be checked out.

Gamers familiar with NimbleBit titles will find that Pocket Trains shares a lot of gameplay and visual cues with the 2012 released Pocket Planes. Bitizen-style pixel art makes a return along with the world map. The coin/bux dual-currency system also makes a return. The general "goal" of Pocket Trains is also similar, with cargo transporting across cities being the main objective.


While veterans of Pocket Planes may balk at the resemblance to Trains, there are a lot of differences (both subtle and otherwise) that both change and improve upon the familiar gameplay. For starters, the visuals have been nicely improved upon, both in terms of sprite variety and detail. Watching your planes fly in Pocket Planes was a bit boring, but I actually enjoyed taking in the scenery with Pocket Trains. Being a game about trains, Pocket Trains also puts a greater focus on building and assigning track routes rather than the attributes of the actual train. Sure, there's a large variety of different trains to craft (each with their own attributes and upgrades), but if you don't plan your routes accordingly, the best train won't matter too much.

This is the case for two reasons: first, there are only a finite amount of track routes that can be bought for each city (some cities may even only have one track connected to it). Second, specific routes can only be attached to one train at a time meaning you can't simply have one train connected to every track as it'll be incredibly inefficient to transport cargo. This is quite a bit different than Pocket Planes, which put a greater emphasis on the flight capabilities of your planes along with the airports owned.


I'm a fan of the gameplay changes made in Pocket Trains. The restrictions on train routes give the game greater strategic depth than Pocket Planes and makes the purchasing and assigning of routes to trains meaningful. Tactics such as hub-and-spoke for planning the logistical transport of cargo become almost necessary to succeed. There's also enough options in terms of cities and routes that players can employ a lot of different approaches depending on playstyle and train inventory. Unfortunately, I found that Pocket Trains' gameplay changes lead to a slower start than other titles. However, one you unlock a few major cities and start additional lines, Pocket Trains really begins to hit its stride.

Being free-to-play, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the Pocket Trains freemium elements. This time around, the game's premium 'bux' currency is used not only to speed up trains to their destination, but you can also cash them in for coins, and they are also used to open crates that contain train parts. While the crates themselves are earned by transporting them to cities, bux are required to actually open them, making this premium currency more necessary than previous titles. Still, being a NimbleBit title, bux flow freely during the normal course of gameplay and the IAPs are also very fair, making the necessity of the premium currency mostly an afterthought.

Sure, there are a few nagging areas that that I wished Pocket Trains would improve. The social events of Planes have been replaced with single player ones that don't offer nearly as enticing awards. In addition, the randomness of train breakdowns which slow down train speeds (unless you repair which requires coins or a train part) can be annoying. Overall however, I think Pocket Trains makes a lot of strides with its core gameplay, making it the sort of logistical title that I think Pocket Planes aspired to be. Suffice to say, there's really no reason not to check out Pocket Trains, and I highly recommend everyone giving it a try.

TouchArcade Rating

  • PP-CrimsonCarriers

    First lol

    • toxiccheese

      I can't wait for the inevitable TA article telling us how to play and spend as little money as possible!

      • InkyTheGhost

        I doubt there will be one. It would basically say, "Just play the game." Nimblebit is known for having 100% optional IAP that is only added after the game has been balanced.

      • toxiccheese

        Nope. I played it and it is definitely a sit and wait or use the IAPs. It's very slow to progress and grind heavy.

      • InkyTheGhost

        "Nope" to what?
        Seems to me there are two main ways to play this game. Casual: play for 5-10 minutes then go do something else with your life. Non-Casual: use strategy and, yeah, grind a bit.

      • toxiccheese

        It really leans towards IAP transactions. Played it enough to realize that it's a very slow grind without putting in some cash.

      • InkyTheGhost

        Well, I disagree. I've been playing it extensively, and I've never felt that I was being pushed to buy IAP. For me, the grind is the game. I think that's where we see things differently.

      • toxiccheese

        That's ok. I have no problem with grinding in games, it's just these kind of games don't feel rewarding... They just feel like work. All I did was send trains off to deliver something, saved up money, unlocked new destinations and track lines, then started the whole process over again. The trains get better, and making money gets easier, but there is no real depth. There is no strategy beyond choosing what to deliver and where. I'm glad you like it though.

      • InkyTheGhost

        Yeah, what feels like work to you is fun to me, though I'd be hard pressed to explain why, exactly. I'm not even a fan of this genre, but for some reason PT rings my bell.

        Different strokes. 🙂

      • toph101

        Wow, that has to go down as the first civilised message board conversation in history! Well done guys, though I do feel cheated somehow... 🙂

      • InkyTheGhost


      • nilly2323

        That's how all these developers games are. I think they really nailed this games IAP. If you need it it's extremely reasonably priced and there isn't a pack that costs more than $15 (I think the lowest was actually $10). The times are short for trips and there is almost always a bux trip to carry out

      • Th3R3n3gad3

        Hey toxic, it's now up! You called it!

  • atmmta

    Fun so far but there is too much micromanaging IMO. Pocket planes scaled up better once you could send planes off for an hour across the globe. Not sure how the gameplay will hold up in later stages.

    • atmmta

      P.S. My gift code is 1DCY is anyone wants to send me parts

  • TTotully

    Love the game, can't believe that it wasn't game of the week?! But I respect TA's opinion. Really there is no excuse not to download this game, it's free and takes up very little space.

  • PallaZ

    Like pocket planes a decent game, but I can only enjoy it for a day or 2.

  • OneBagTravel

    Near perfect game. My only complaint is that I wish it displayed all the info you needed better. Too many sub menus.

    • TeddyNYC

      As much as I like trains, Pocket Trains feels like a rehash of Pocket Planes, which I grew tired of a couple of weeks after playing. I'm already tired of Pocket Trains after playing for 3 days. Train breakdowns & refueling are also annoying, new ways of forcing you to pay unless you love to grind for your progress. Far from being the worst "free" game out there, but the IAP does hurt it.

  • rewyan

    Thank you for finally reviewing the game and actually caring about it. It's a good game, and deserves at least some attention.

  • atmmta

    Shameless plug for sending me parts: gift code is 1DCY

    • Th3R3n3gad3

      Pls don't spam.

  • dariusjr98

    Man, I loved Tiny Tower, but I just couldn't get into Pocket Planes, it was just too boring. I hope Trains is better.

  • InkyTheGhost

    Game of the week for me.

  • Topbeast

    This game is so boring.

    FREEMIUM crap.

    • CzechCongo

      This comment is so boring.

      Same old crap.

    • raviadso

      This is not freemium crap. I've played for three days without spending a dollar an feels much more like a Kairosoft game with tons of polish than a freemium money grab.

  • cowtruck123

    Buying crates at stations doesn't work for me... I pay and they do not show up in the crafting menu

    • czarny

      They appear in that station and need to be delivered before you can use them.

  • NickyNichols

    This comment pointing out the boring comment is so boring.

    Same old informative crap.

  • gmattergames

    Played for some time and noticed that elements which appear to be random, are starting to feel managed, almost predetermined. The game always gives you something to carry, a clear choice for the route, but always just a bit more than you can haul, forcing you to compromise, and in-turn, increases the urgency to upgrade your trains. The ability to upgrade, however, is based on the limited availability of bucks and crates, both of which, can be obtained faster through IAP.

  • Joshua

    Hope they fix a lot of bugs and make better tutorials and help. Also I would like a guide of Trains like a list handbook and twitter share also convos with the nimble persons will awesome heard the opinions and complaints hahaha like in Tiny Tower

    • nilly2323

      The guide of trains would help greatly. Always nice in planes to dream of getting those 20-slot planes. It does give info if you click on the button, but like an earlier post mentioned that is a lot of steps to get there and there is a lot of micro managing in the game.

  • renatpl

    I'm liking this game a lot! I just wish it could add up the amount of money of the cargo combined to make it easier to decide the most profitable, and after you have over 10 trains, you have to work hard to keep them running, i wish it was easier to manage multiple trains at a time like "pick up jobs automatically"

    • Diseraph

      Omg you have 10 already. I'm concerned re: sheer micromanagement. Would it be like civ5 on massive size map lol

  • Para Friv

    Man, I loved Tiny Tower, but I just couldn't get into Pocket Planes, it was just too boring. I hope Trains is better. Thank you so much..

  • StraightlineBoy

    I've played if for a few days, had some fun but ultimately deleted it. For me Pocket Trains suffers because there's no goal and no real challenge. Just by playing you'll make money and expand your railroad, it's just a question of how much time you sink into it. It badly needs a challenge, such as an AI railroad or simply the possibility of going bankrupt if you don't run a well organised railroad.

    • rod-

      This comment sums up my response to the game. I enjoyed it for a bit and the premium currency is balanced quite generously, but I felt no incentive to continue playing. Every move is profitable, the progression of trains feels extremely meaningless. Even the compulsion loop of getting a train out of the station so I could raise my bank balance did not hold me for very long ( despite my general susceptibility to such loops)

  • nao

    Deleted after I finished an event but did not get rewarded while phone was asleep. The need to repair is discouraging with the amount of gold earned through the need of constant micromanaging. A fun game though while it lasted.

  • iqSoup

    Been playing for a few days now--I really love this one. I don't care if its similar to Pocket Planes--I've been having a lot of fun regardless. And if they make a Pocket Submarines next year and its exactly the same formula I'm sure I'll have fun playing that as well.

    • curtisrshideler

      I still want Pocket Detective, where you manage a detective squad and are sent out to solve murders, thefts, etc.

      • iqSoup

        Awesome idea! I think I will steal it and make millions!!!

  • bobotmeister

    i'm just playing it right now for the need to unlock all engine types...

  • ngajoe

    I feel I have lost very little by the decision to strip out the multiplayer elements. Pocket planes had a team leaderboard, but it still was single player. Not a detractor in my opinion.
    I think the multiplayer component of games is a little overrated these days.

  • Daniel Egger

    Generally I love this game. What I really hate and simply do not understand is why on earth this game requires iOS 6. Even IB2 is playable on an iPod Touch 3g but PT isn't? Come on...

  • Rattyfus

    Requires iOS 6 so can't play it on iPod Touch 3G. I am GUTTED. Why, by the way?

Pocket Trains - Free Railroad Empire Building Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4.5