Conduct TOGETHER! Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Northplay

Publisher: Northplay

Release Date: 05/12/2018

Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £17.99 GBP

Game code provided by Northplay for Review

Gameplay

The objective and controls are fairly simple in Conduct TOGETHER!; your goal is to conduct trains between different coloured stations in order to drop passengers at their destination. Each train is controlled with one button – press it once and the train stops, press it again: the train will start moving. The trains will be controlled with the right Joy-Con (A, B, X and Y), but you’ll also be able to control railroad switches with the 4 buttons on the left Joy-Con, to redirect the trains. This is where the multiplayer aspect comes in; you can seamlessly hand a Joy-Con over to a friend to split the work between you. Either of the ZR/ZL triggers can be pressed to initiate a short interval of slow motion, perfect for navigating tricky pile-ups or to give yourself some extra reaction time.

There’s a lot of variety in terms of what the levels can throw at you, to further complicate things. Sometimes you’ll have pedestrian vehicles intersecting your railway lines, forcing you to hold your trains and let them pass. Other levels may include uncontrollable freight trains that you have to carefully manoeuvre around. Between these and the many trains you can be controlling at once, there are plenty of obstacles to worry about. 

IT’S DIFFICULT… TOO DIFFICULT?

Conductor Together! Review Screenshot 4

Unfortunately, I feel Conduct TOGETHER! is also held back by its greatest asset – its difficulty. The level of multitasking, dexterity, and quick thinking required is exhilarating for some, but may prove too much of a challenge for others. On the surface, this game looks perfect to play with young children and ageing parents, after all, who doesn’t have train-loving relatives in their family? Its simple graphics are easy to understand for non-gamers, or at least, young gamers, but Conduct Together! is probably too complex for non-gamers to pick up in its current form.

This is by design; Conduct TOGETHER! is not a casual game; it’s a hardcore, challenging action puzzler. I couldn’t help but feel, however, like it’s missing a large opportunity by not appealing to the casual, family-friendly Nintendo Switch market. My father-in-law (to be) loves trains, so I thought it would be perfect for him. Although we got through a few levels, and the idea grabbed him, it proved too challenging for us to complete together. I fared better with my fiancée – who has more gaming experience – so there is definitely some multiplayer fun to be had here. 

I think if they were to patch in something like Celeste‘s Assist Mode – where you can modify the game speed to 70%, 80%, etc. – then this would be a perfect, must-buy game for anyone with a train enthusiast in the family. I took this idea to Northplay, and I’m happy to announce that they plan on adding some difficulty options in the near future. They’re aiming to get out a patch that allows casual players to reduce the complexity within a month or so.

RUNAWAY FUN

When playing on my own, I was able to progress through most of the levels, but there are some real tough ones. The feeling of accomplishment when you finally complete a level – or manage to improve your star rating on a previous level –  is sure to bring you back for more,  though. It’s incredibly rewarding, which is a risky combo when combined with the addictive “one more go” feeling you get from barely failing a level. One developer estimated there was 30+ hours of solo content, and I can definitely see this hooking people in for that long. I’ve sunk more than 10 hours into it already, and I’m still coming back for more.

Something that will undoubtedly bring joy to train enthusiasts are the variety of unlockable trains. Every world you complete unlocks a new train type, which you can view in your HQ, complete with country of origin and year of production. These made completion feel meaningful, and the extra details were a satisfying addition. Once unlocked, you can choose any of these models as your active train set, causing all levels to be played with that model.

MOBILE MAYHEM

It’s worth mentioning that the Conduct series began on mobile devices, and Conduct THIS! is available on the Android and Apple stores. It’s a freemium game with the same core gameplay; it inspired the Nintendo Switch port. It’s free, so if you’re on the fence about Conduct TOGETHER! and have a smartphone, I suggest at least trying it out on there. In fairness, the multiplayer aspect is a big draw for the Switch version, and they’ve made a number of improvements and modifications from the mobile version. It would be unfair to label this as “just a glorified mobile game”, but the resemblance is there and it may put some people off. 

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Audio

The background music is upbeat and lively, never really getting annoying – which is good, as you may be hearing the same sixty seconds of song on repeat for half an hour! The music changes to fit the locale of the world you’re in, which is a nice touch – a Western score serves as the backdrop for the 1800’s themed levels, for instance, while the music takes a more tropical direction for the desert island worlds. 

Different trains have different horn sounds, which play whenever one brakes. This was a nice touch, though some of them were reused for multiple trains. Apart from this, the sound effects were fine and, overall, the audio is unobtrusive and serves its purpose.

Visuals & Performance

The graphics are a simple, low-poly affair. It’s an art style that’s becoming popular in Switch Indies – the recently released Horizon Chase Turbo uses it, too – and Conduct TOGETHER! pulls it off nicely. Each new world you unlock has its own locale, which adds some uniqueness to the levels. Some have an island motif, complete with palm trees and straw-roofed huts, while others go for a built-up, residential theme. A decent amount of effort has gone into preventing the environments and backgrounds from being empty, and it’s a welcome touch. 

Performance-wise, the game runs very smoothly. No slowdown, stuttering, or frame drops were noticeable, despite all the mayhem on screen. I did come across one oddity though: pausing the game while slow-mo is active causes the menu to also appear in slow motion. I’m not sure if this was a clever, intended joke, or whether the way slow-mo is coded just slows everything down, unintentionally affecting menu load speeds. If it was incredible commitment to detail, then hats off to Northplay. 

Value

SwitchWatch is devoted to helping people make informed decisions, based on value, and I’m particularly strict when it comes to pricing. In this case, it’s hard to fully recommend Conduct TOGETHER! in its current state. At $19.99 USD or £17.99 GBP in the UK, I think the game is just a tad steep – the sweet spot for me would have been about $15/£12, with $10 or less being a bargain. Though there is a tonne of replay value, and you could easily spend hours on it, the current appeal is quite niche. 

If you’re not up for a mentally demanding, quick-thinking, tough puzzler, then I don’t think you’ll get your money’s worth out of this title. Primarily because you need to be consistently fast-fingered and mindful to complete the majority of levels. If you’re up for a real challenge, though, or are excited about the visuals and theme but plan to wait for the difficulty patch to release, then I definitely recommend picking it up. Once a difficulty patch drops, this will be an amazing multiplayer experience for the whole family to enjoy.

Pros

P

Rewarding gameplay

P

Hours of replayability

Cons

P

Some levels border on unfair