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?
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.
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.
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.