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Review CornerSoftware
Lionel Trains Presents Trans-Con!
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
This historical simulation does a bang-up job of entertaining and educating kids at the same time. Kids will work with a budget, learn facts about history, geography, social studies, and science, and make important educated decisions as they capture outlaws, lay track to complete the Transcontinental Railroad, and retrieve the Golden Spike.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 8-12   Subject: Adventure  Brand: Knowledge Adventure
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
Lionel Trains Presents Trans-Con! Product Overview
Lionel Trains Presents Trans-Con! is the first historical simulation game to take kids on an adventure to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. It features realistic 3D models of classic Lionel Trains and aims to extensively cover national and state curriculum standards in geography, history, social studies, and science for grades 3-6.

This program allows kids to participate in the construction of the railroad that opened up the west — a very significant historical event. It is 1863 in the USA, and players must lead a team of 10,000 men on a dangerous mission. Players choose either CP and start in Sacramento, California, and race to Utah, or UP and work from Omaha to Utah. Victory means recovering the famous Golden Spike that has been stolen by a mastermind.

There are 3 basic missions — building the railroads, saving the railroad from sabotage, and capturing the outlaws. Players construct the railroad step by step which involves surveying the terrain, facing mountains, and crossing rivers, valleys, and deserts on their way to the Golden Spike. For example, if they start in Sacramento, the first portion of the adventure involves connecting Sacramento and Colfax by laying tracks. They are given a budget of $800,000, straight and curved track, and an option to backstep. Different problems arise along the way, and important decisions must be made! Some workers are leaving for the gold mines — should they get more workers from China, pay the workers more, or simply work harder? The decision to bring in more workers brings about a strike that costs $15,000. Players decide what kind of bridges to construct (and of course the sturdier bridges are the most expensive) and must weigh the pros and cons in order to make up their minds. Going bankrupt means starting over again, so planning ahead will be of utmost importance! Facts about the Sacramento River are given.

Saving the railroad from sabotage involves sending a member of the Dream Team (Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, or Tomahawk Beckwourth). Players store the objects they collect in their Inventory, refer to their journal for important information, and get written instructions to aid them.

Outwitting a gang of real-life outlaws involves collecting clues, and capturing then interrogating them. Sarah is in charge of unravelling this mystery and capturing the outlaws. Players help her by choosing the questions they want her to ask them. The questions are categorized into Polite, Tough as Nails, and totally Loco.

Players have a "train of thought" journal that keeps track of money issues and ranking.

As kids progress through the adventure, game play becomes more challenging and involved. At any time, kids can choose to learn more about a particular situation by pressing a Reality Check button. Historical photos and period music are incorporated into the game, making the simulation all the more authentic.

Kid testers were totally absorbed in this adventure — bordering on obsessed. They happily took on the challenge of this simulation, and learned a tremendous amount of information and skills along the way.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium 90 processor, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM.

Skills Covered
history, geography, social studies, science, critical thinking, organizing thoughts, planning ahead, problem solving, resource management, strategy

Educational Value
Kids will not only learn loads of historical facts (covering the American Frontier from 1863 to 1869), geography, and other important curriculum skills, but will get a wonderful mental workout as they weigh pros and cons, make educated guesses and decisions, use strategy, and learn to budget their money and manage their resources.

Entertainment Value
This simulation is totally engaging and contains 3 concurrent missions, each of which is engrossing. Capturing and interrogating the "bad guys" is always appealing to tweeners, and most players will gladly rise to the challenge of building the railroad and making history at the same time.

The program is well-designed with plenty of help available when needed. Additionally, the CD-ROM contains an extensive user's guide.

The missions in this simulation provide the incentive to persist through the entire adventure, which has just enough content to last without overwhelming players.

Dollar Value
The suggested retail price is $30 US, and the learning experience provided is priceless.

Released: 1999