Choo Choo Charles, a viral horror with a nightmare train

Choo Choo Charles, a viral horror with a nightmare train

Choo Choo Charles

Halloween is now over, but we are still in full horror climate, something that sets us up in the best way to talk about Choo-Choo Charles, a strange game that has already met with great success with its first presentation, quickly becoming viral with two million. of trailer views on Twitter. It is a sort of survival horror created by Gavin Eisenbeisz, a real boy prodigy of videogame development since at only 20 years old he already managed to put together a project that promises to be very interesting and is not even the first game created so far. The structure does not fundamentally differ too much from the classic first-person horror, but it is the situation it stages and its particular setting that are totally new, while relying on a nightmare that - however bizarre and original it may seem - seems to be rather shared.

There is something instinctive in the fear of trains with the face, just look at the Thomas Train to realize it: although it wants to be the quietest children's product in the world (or perhaps for this very reason ), there is something deeply disturbing about such an idea.

This is probably why mods with this character are very popular in horror games, as we have seen several times for the Resident Evil chapters, but here the idea is taken to the extreme.

In Choo Choo Charles, our nemesis is a monstrous and bloodthirsty locomotive, which moves very fast off the tracks using mechanical spider legs, with a terrible grin on its "face" and empty eyes and inexpressive to underline the metaphysical origin of a nightmare which, however, also seems deeply rooted in physical reality, as befits an infernal steam engine.

Inspirations and origin

In Choo-Choo Charles we are constantly hunted by the demon-possessed train, as in this picture Eisenbeisz started developing at 12, he reported in an interview with PC Gamer , using the Blender engine for his first creations and then moving on to Unreal Engine, which is the base also used for Choo Choo Charles. His team Two Star Games has already published some games also passing through Steam Greenlight: at the moment My Beautiful Paper Smile, designed by Eisenbeisz himself, is available in early access. Already from these first projects we can glimpse a sort of common thread in the author's horror, which has a particular stylistic imprint: it is a question of starting from hand-drawn elements, sometimes childish, apparently harmless and transfiguring them into something terrifying. It's something we also find in other Two Star games like Night in Riverager and My Friend is a Raven, which are also well received by the Steam audience.

The paper characters and weird atmospheres of previous games return to the shape of the inhabitants of the mysterious island of Choo Choo Charles, as well as the little train - a classic symbol of childhood games - which becomes a real nightmare. Eisenbeisz confirmed the fact that one of the inspirations of the game is the Thomas Train, whose shared memory facilitates empathic identification with the strange horror created by the developer. But also the idea of ​​Blaine, the sophisticated, insane monorail of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, is part of the bizarre concept, which evidently has its roots in a common fear. This probably facilitated the spread of the trailer and images of Choo Choo Charles, which in a few days became a real viral social phenomenon.

A strange island and a terrible train

A panorama eerie island where Choo-choo Charles takes place The developer's idea is to create a sense of constant threat, as often happens with the new wave of first-person survival horror, focused on a single seemingly unbeatable and tremendously insistent enemy. The concept is to give some time to think, look around and plan the action, knowing that "every 5 or 10 minutes", as reported by Eisenbeisz himself, "Charles will come after us, trying in every way to kill us ". At least initially it is not possible to eliminate this inexorable nemesis, so we can only try to escape or buy time by removing it in some way, until we are able to put together an attack system powerful enough to be able to challenge the enemy face to face. In the end the concept is not far from that of Amnesia, the new Resident Evil or Kageroh, to name a few, in which the evil creature is too strong to be defeated and simply forces us to run away and try to buy time, but in this case all takes place on the tracks of a railway.

It is not clear why, but the island where Choo Choo Charles takes place has a very wide railway network, which turns out to be practically the only possible means of transport. The apparent peace and silence in which the setting is immersed are however upset several times by the raids of Charles, the insane locomotive with mechanical spider legs that chases its prey and kills them with extreme violence. It is a sort of local curse, on which the haggard inhabitants can do very little, except hide and hope not to be found, but on these we can count to have a little help and perhaps a hope to be able to solve the situation, taking part in some "quests" and collecting materials in order to upgrade our locomotive until it becomes a sort of tank capable of counteracting Charles' attacks blow for blow.

Between railway simulation and survival horror

The protagonist keeps Charles at a distance with a turret mounted on the back of the locomotive There is no real narrative, at least for the moment, but we are inside a strange island immersed in an unnatural quiet and disturbing, crossed by a long railway that runs for a large part of the surface. A small locomotive is the only vehicle we have available and we have to manage it in the best possible way, with all the cumbersome that this means of transport entails: this means that we cannot go where we want at any time, we must follow the prepared route and plan carefully. the stages of the route, so as not to go too deep into isolated areas where we could be easy prey of Charles's assaults. To change direction, we cannot rely on a simple steering wheel but it is necessary to get out of the car and operate the switches, all operations that prove to be extremely risky in a context of constant threat like this.

Precisely this cumbersome movement is a characterizing element of the experience: escape is never free but forced within a predetermined path, so we can only rely on strategic planning and the defenses set up on the locomotive to hope to survive during the distressing journeys through the peaceful countryside of the island. By completing this quest or exploring the setting on foot - always through fast sorties, because moving outside the locomotive is extremely dangerous - we can collect various mechanical parts that can be invested to improve our car, an indispensable element for progression in the game. In this way it is possible to increase the energy, the defense and attack capacity and the speed of the vehicle, thus increasing the chances of survival and also of counterattack against Charles, who can be hit using a sort of turret mounted on the back.

Our locomotive in Choo-choo Charles can be upgraded with more defenses and attack possibilities Now we just have to wait and see if the excellent conditions will be answered in the full game, which should arrive in the first months of 2022, without a precise date yet. That the goal is set higher with Choo Choo Charles, compared to the previous productions of Two Stars, is clear: from the technical point of view there are great evolutions and also in terms of the amplitude and the structure of the game this seems to be a production almost of "maturity", despite the fact that we almost always speak of a single developer who, moreover, is barely of age. Eisenbeisz said he was very surprised by the enthusiastic response of the public to the strange idea of ​​him and this obviously will push him to try to give his best, because his eyes are all on this game as a new promise of videogame horror.

We hope that the pressure of a title that has now gone viral does not lead to sacrifices in terms of originality, since this aspect is certainly fundamental to the game.

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