I’m fairly sure most people have more sensible comfort games than this but then, they’re not me. Flying Train is very much my go to thing when I need a bit of cheering up.
Originally featured on the B-Side of Chris Sievey’s Camouflage (possibly making it one of the first round of budget games?), Flying Train is sort of Frog Fractions long, long before anyone bothered to invent Frog Fractions.
As you’d expect from the man who sometimes wasn’t Chris Sievey at all and instead inhabited an oversized papier-mache head when being Frank Sidebottom, it’s both daft as a brush, filled with a childish charm and rather joyous. From referring to the player as a Railwaynaut (and who hasn’t always wanted to be one of those?) to asking the player to “Press Any Trousers”, it’s full of little smiles and heart.
Beginning on a railway track where the top half of the train is missing from 9 trains, you’re charged with landing the tops of the trains on the bottoms whilst avoiding the birds. The snag being that the bottom of the train is likely to end up overlapping with a previously landed train so, as the instructions suggest, count the wheels. It’s tougher than it sounds given the speccy’s flickery movement and given we’re talking 1983, easy to assume that this is all the game is. But nope. That would be too easy, too obvious.
Once you’ve finally succeeded in making your flying trains, the game sets off on its own little merry way through time and space and takes you on a journey only fit for true railwaynauts with many a twist and turn. Being a railwaynaut isn’t as easy as you’d expect, y’know? Proper job, that.
I dunno, it’s the sheer joy behind it and how clearly it wants you to share in it that makes me adore it so. Even today, the amount of games that want to take you on a sort of gleeful, silly ride are in fairly short supply. More so I guess when everyone’s trying to be all satirical and all about the internet meme or whatever it is the kids are down with these days. Flying Train has no truck with being cool, it just wants you to smile a bit. Which I guess is very, very Frank.
Chris went on to write the mildly successful music biz simulator The Biz not long after but his computer game work is mainly forgotten, overshadowed as it is by his music career and Frank. It’s a shame because Flying Train is such a sweet thing that’s happy just being a happy thing. Mind you, it’s also a reminder that Frank and Chris are no longer with us and the world is all the sadder for their loss.
I miss Frank, really.
I really do.