Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up – Review
Follow Genre: Management sim
Developer: SquarePlay Games
Publisher: SquarePlay Games
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Tested on: PC

Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up – Review

Site Score
9.3
Good: Cute graphics & good sound effects, extensive and well-thought-out gameplay
Bad: Accidentally lowering floors or changing track length can be quite annoying
User Score
10.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

‘Overcrowd: a commute ‘em up’ is a simulator game in which you’ll build and manage metro stations. How you build your station, is up to you! You’ll need to keep your commuters happy by allowing them to move around efficiently and pleasantly, by reducing unsightly trash, and building prestigious looking items. Overcrowd has been developed by SquarePlay Games, a studio consisting of only two developers.

Story

Overcrowd doesn’t have much of a story, but it does have a context. It is set in the fictional city of Lubdon, where you’ll be challenged to build and manage several metro stations throughout the city; both on the outskirts and in the bustling city center. Of course, this is based on London, and the naming of the streets on the map are nice variations of London’s street names as well.

Graphics

The graphics of this game are cute isometric pixel graphics. Colorful and cartoonish, they remind you of modern infographics. The graphics of the map show some buildings which make you think of some iconic buildings in London. This game is in 2.5D. The maps are 3D, but you can only view them at four angles, sideways from the top. This works fine most of the time, but sometimes lower things get obscured by being surrounded by high structures.

The UI is really well designed and easy to navigate, even though there are so many things to build and to keep an eye on. If you don’t remember where to find an item, you’ll most likely find it again in just a few clicks.

Sound

The soundtrack of the game is retro style chip-tune music, which fits the minimalistic graphics style of the game well. You’ll hear music when you’re clicking through the main menu, but also occasionally during gameplay. However, the sound effects are always present. There’s the bustle from commuters you’ll hear every now and then, but also the specific sounds of all actions the commuters and your staff take, so you’ll know if the plants are being watered just by listening to the sound effects. Some sounds alert you to events that need your immediate attention like people fainting or having a heart attack, people being aggressive or panicking, or rats emerging. These sound effects are quite helpful to manage your station effectively and send your crew wherever they need to be the most.

Gameplay

‘Overcrowd: a commute ‘em up’ is a metro-station management simulator game. You can make your own station designs in auto-generated maps, where you’ll need to connect several entrances on multiple levels with train tracks running through the map. You can build floors on multiple levels, with stairs and elevators connecting them. On these floors you need to place all the commodities your commuters wish for, and still need to ensure a quick flow of travelers to avoid overcrowding.

This may sound simple enough, but in practice, it’s a lot to manage as you need to design your station, keep the commuters happy and of course, intervene when necessary. Random events can be ‘game day’, with swarms of violent drunks entering the station; a norovirus outbreak, with highly contagious people vomiting all over the place; or a heatwave, with many people fainting from the heat and others panicking because they see a fainted person. There are many different random events, all needing extra tools and extra attention from the staff to manage. Luckily, the game offers a great tutorial to teach you the ins and outs of the game by teaching you the ropes of building a small station, the technology that comes with it, where to find the necessary information and to manage your hardworking staff.

There are different game modes to choose from: network sandbox, station sandbox, and a challenge of the day. Network sandbox is basically a campaign mode, where you’ll build several stations with increasing difficulty, where in turn you’ll gradually unlock technology. Station sandbox lets you create a random map for a station, using parameters you can set yourself. The challenge of the day is a very challenging level to complete.

Starting out in the network sandbox, you won’t have that many items available yet to build. You’ll need to unlock better quality items and luxury items by spending ‘bonds’ in a technology-tree. You’ll earn bonds by transporting lots of commuters. Each station has a number of bonds available to earn, and if you play a station in a zone which is more challenging, there will be more technology to unlock, and more bonds to earn. If you go back to perfect earlier stations you made, you can use the new technology you’ve unlocked in other levels. Finishing one station successfully by completing the main objectives, will unlock new stations of both the same challenge level, and one level higher.

Every station you’ll start with a layout displaying the commuter entrances and the tracks running through it, all on 3 elevation levels. You’ll start with a small sum of money, which will quickly run out if you’ve built your starting station too big. You’ll need to think about your final station layout from the start, but you’ll need to start small in order to keep your commuters happy with the resources you’ve got. You’ll gradually earn money by shifting commuters, by building shops, and by completing objectives. However, you’ll also need to spend money on your staff, and the upkeep of your station and shops.

The best time to extend your station is at night, because when commuters are wandering all over the place you generally have enough to manage, and commuters also get upset when you are moving items near them during the daytime. However, you should be careful not to spend too much money during the night, because as the day starts you’ll need to pay a sum of money to empty your trash collectors, get fuel for your generators, and re-stock your shops. Your personnel needs to be paid as well, and if you don’t start the day with enough money, they’ll go on strike until you can pay them. Most of the time you can endure these few hours without employees, but if there happens to be a commuter with a heart attack during this time, they’ll most likely die.

Time goes by quickly in the game, but if you have extensive plans for renovation during the night, you’ll be able to pause time so you can take all the time you need to build new platforms and halls. However, in order to move some items, your staff need to take care of it (like litter bins which should be emptied, or plants which should be watered), so you’ll either need to unpause the game for that, or you’ll need to sell the items and buy them anew. You are also able to speed up the time, which is useful to do if everything is running smoothly at your station, and you’re just waiting for enough income to be able to pay for new platforms or another extension of your station.

 

Commuter’s happiness is very important. Commuters get unhappy when they will see litter, spills, or fainted people. While your station staff will work fast to fix these issues, they’ll never be fast enough to counter these problems immediately. In order to keep your station’s reputation high, you’ll need to invest in prestige items which will make your commuters happy when they see them, like musicians, fancy clocks, statues and fish tanks. The happiness of the commuters will compensate for the distress of seeing spills and litter.

If you fail with your station and your reputation drops to 0%, you shouldn’t necessarily give up on your design. Reloading the last save and trying to tweak a few things based on commuters’ wishes and complaints might fix your problem. Sometimes it pays to retry a scenario a few times because you’ll never know what will happen in a few turns. Something essential may break while your crew is on strike, causing you to lose all your reputation while people are panicking, or possibly you’ll just have a few rats emerging which your crew can easily manage after fixing or replacing the broken equipment in time.

Conclusion

Overcrowd is a great game, and very addicting once you get the hang of it. This game is very much recommended for people who like management and tycoon games. The cute graphics work really well for this type of game, and the sound effects are well done and very helpful to manage your station. The well-designed gameplay will make you keep coming back to build more stations, even when you’ve already finished one campaign in the network toolbox.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Overcrowd: A Commute 'Em Up - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Anmaja


I'm a LARP writer, freelance teacher and everlasting PhD student, and an avid gamer. Nowadays I game mostly on PC, but I love my retro playstation 1 & 2 as well :) I like watching anime, movies and series, and read books & comics whenever I have time!

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