Don't be fooled - this train based card game is a laught riot.
UNO was really the game that demonstrated the broad appeal and scope of Xbox Live Arcade. The game caught a definite fan base thanks to its slow pace, strong online and social aspect, as well as the fact that it was a faithful and colourful recreation of a beloved and simple card game. On paper, Ticket to Ride is a similar proposition. It's slow, turn based and a faithful recreation of a classic board game. However, this game never caught on in the same way UNO did. And I'm not sure why.
Ticket to Ride is a game that involves collecting different coloured cards and using them to lay down railroads which you use to create links between cities. Each part of the railroad has a colour assigned and a number of spaces, which dictate what colour card you need to complete that section, and how many of that colour you need. Then there are grey routes, where you can use any colour you like, but have to have the exact same number.
You get points just by laying on track, earning much more points by making six-block routes than for two-block routes, and by completing destination tickets, which you get given a choice of at the start of the game. In a standard three-player game, each section of track can only be occupied by one train master, and so there is plenty of strategy in finding the best path to get to your destination and making sure you don't get blocked. There is more depth to the gameplay then described, and as board games go, it's a strong one.
And this online arcade version does a good job of bringing the board game to life. It isn't exactly a game with personality or charm, but the visuals are solid and appealing, and the sound effects are good. The generic characters you are matched up with in single player can follow a number of different thinking patterns, and even within the same skill level you can encounter drastically different levels of strategic competency. This is either faulty unbalanced A.I. or a genius move. I want to believe the latter.
So it's a good recreation of a good board game for Xbox Live Arcade. Sounds like a steal. Pity then that it didn't catch on, and that the online community died after just a couple of weeks. You can play local multiplayer to recreate the real board game experience, and perhaps the game is at its best here, but especially compared to UNO, it probably has less value.
That being said, I still spent a good amount of time playing single player, and enjoying myself while doing so. It's a good game to play while listening to music, or while on the phone, or while eating dinner. It doesn't demand much of you; against the game's medium level A.I. opponents winning isn't too much of a challenge so long as you've got a little luck on your side and a decent strategy. In short, it's a game that doesn't demand your full attention, and that's just fine.
To be honest I do actually know why Ticket to Ride never caught on like UNO did. I had never heard of Ticket to Ride before this version came to Live Arcade, whereas I had heard of, and played, UNO before. It's a much less recognisable brand. And then there's the issue of the online; UNO's online community was established long before Ticket to Ride was released. And then there's the matter of UNO costing half as much as Ticket to Ride. And in sober honesty, I can't say that Ticket to Ride is twice as much game.
UNO comparisons aside, it's a very solid arcade game. If UNO whetted your appetite for low intensity Live Arcade games, Ticket to Ride is a strong alternative and a fun diversion which I can recommend to anyone looking to expand their collection of arcade games.