Ever wondered what it was like in the early days of the steam engine, frying your eggs on the coal shovel, riding on the footplate with the smell of oil and grease up your nose? Wonder no more: Railroad Tycoon has arrived on Platform 1.
You're cast as an ambitious entrepreneur with a budget of one million dollars. Your only aim in life is to invest it wisely in the railroad and make a wad of cash. To do so you'll have to use your trains and their specialist carriages to take resources like oil, coal and petrol to the right factories, and transport mail and passengers from town to town.
There are four different territories to choose from - England, East America, West America and Europe - and in all of them you deal with rival railroad entrepreneurs. Pull-down menus allow you to organise your finances, pay a visit to the stockbroker, operate signals, build trains, compete with your rivals and create the most profitable routes. You can even build factories or put up restaurants and post offices at your local stations, if you want to make a bit of extra cash.
A financial report is drawn up at the end of each year. If your investors (they're the guys who put up the dosh in the first place) are pleased, you're allowed to carry on. If not, it's back to playing with your train set.
With its sheer complexity, vast array of options and immense scope for hours and hours of play, Railroad Tycoon is one of the classiest simulations you're ever likely to see - a bit like Sim City with loads of extras thrown in.
Once you've got the hang of them, the maps and menus are easy to use, building is incredibly easy and the whole package is distinguished by masses of authentic detail; you can lay double or single track, be your own signalman, or dabble in the stock market with bonds and shares.
All the maps are geographically accurate, so you can build a network of factories round your home town and watch the population escalate. Better still, the resource map is different every time you play so no two games can ever be the same - even if you lay your track in exactly the same place.
With that much scope for unique design and development it will be months before you run out of puff. Graphically, Railroad Tycoon may not be much to look at (though there are some very good animated building sequences) but what it lacks in glamour it certainly makes up for in gameplay; and if you've got a sound board, the effects are something special!
If you ever wanted to be an engine driver, buy it.