One of my favorite urban legends as a child centered on the sewers of New York City. As the story goes, it suddenly became popular in New York to have an alligator as a pet. The giant lizards were kept in fish tanks and then in bathtubs, until owners were horrified to discover that an alligator outgrows even a bathtub, at which point some great number of alligators were sneaked to the sewers, where they now live.
As the world gradually demonstrates that monsters and wizards are much harder to come by than you expected as a child, there are spaces that still hold onto some mystery and magic. That promise of strange worlds underneath our everyday lives is what drives The Station, a French game from Pixel-Boy. In the demo, which also functions as a tutorial, the player starts her first day of work in the sewers with a test from a cheerful boss. The pests she’s tasked with dealing with are “foggies,” who essentially appear to be dirt and grime come to life.
The player is not without help—she’s armed with a “capture wand” and one of three friendly “creatures” who spits projectiles made of fire, water, or grass. The reference is obvious and loving. Pokémon, too, took place in spaces—cities and small towns—that were fictional, but familiar to young players. They resembled the real world, only full of dragons and adorable magical creatures.
The accompanying creatures level up, and change as they do, with a weapon system that feels a lot like Cave Story (2004), another game that looks to the past with admiration. The characters, too, would fit in that game, given their immediate charm and precise pixel art. There’s even a cute loudmouth mini-boss. There’s something fantastical about the unknown realms behind storm drains and further down the subway tunnel, and The Station is posed to tell stories about them.
You can download The Station over on itch.io.