How The Viral Horror Game Choo-Choo Charles Got Its Name

In our interview with Two Star Games, we learned Choo-Choo Charles was almost named Choo-Choo Chandler.

This year’s Summer Game Fest was packed with an overwhelming amount of games, but only one of them featured a demon spider train. Choo-Choo Charles is an upcoming open world horror game currently being created by Gavin Eisenbeisz, who is also known on YouTube, Twitter, and Steam as Two Star Games. Eisenbeisz has been making small games since 2013, but none have had the internet as excited as Choo-Choo Charles. Following its recent appearance during Day of the Devs, we reached out to Two Star Games to ask some questions about how the game is coming along, and how they’ve handled the most recent wave of hype.

“It was one of the highest traffic days the game has had,” Eisenbeisz says in regards to Day of the Devs. “It was great to see such a positive response from players and the press.”

While this recent spotlight may have expanded his audience, Choo-Choo Charles has been highly anticipated since day one. The announcement trailer from last October currently has 3.8 million views on YouTube and 1.3 million views on Twitter. Still, Eisenbeisz says the hype hasn’t affected the game’s development much.

“It’s not much different from being the developer of an unknown game,” he says. “The main difference is a sense of security, since I know as soon as the game comes out, there will be a crowd of people waiting to play it. The development process itself isn’t really different, I just have a little less to be stressed about with the release.

The announcement trailer led to a surge in online popularity, which has become a core part of the game’s development. Eisenbeisz credits his YouTube channel as being “responsible for a large chunk of the game’s funding” in addition to being one of the game’s largest traffic sources. His last seven videos have averaged around 1.7 million views. In addition to Choo-Choo Charles content, the Two Star Games channel includes vlogs and Q&As about Eisenbeisz’s game dev career.

Two Star’s most recent success is My Beautiful Paper Smile, which was played by huge YouTubers like Markiplier and The Game Theorists. When asked about the switch from the hand-drawn style of My Beautiful Paper Smile to the 3D models in Choo-Choo Charles, Eisenbeisz says it’s a similar experience.

“It’s not very different,” he says. “I don’t do all the models in Choo-Choo Charles myself, but I do still draw all the textures. The 3D art workflow is pretty much the same as in MBPS, but the models and materials are just a little more detailed.”

The games are quite distinct stylistically, but it’s impossible to look at Charles’ smile and not be reminded of Eisenbeisz’s former work. Here’s a comparison of the two:

An image of the smile of Two Star Games' Choo-Choo Charles and a similar smile from My Beautiful Paper Smile. Both Use wide eyes and bloody, pointed teeth.

Perhaps the bigger difference between the two works is the tone. While both games are meant to be creepy, there’s something undeniably comedic about a twisted Thomas the Tank Engine with spider legs.

“There’s a lighthearted irony to the whole game that I put there very intentionally,” Eisenbeisz says. “With all my previous games, I wanted to be really serious and gritty, but I got bored of that. With Choo-Choo Charles, I wanted the game to allow for random dumb things that I could add just for laughs, so having a spider train as the villain has opened up those possibilities. It’s helped make development a lot more enjoyable.”

The name “Choo-Choo Charles” is also very funny, but it actually wasn’t Eisenbeisz’s first choice. Originally, the monster was named “Trainboy,” but he had to give it up after finding out the name already belonged to a Thomas the Tank Engine YouTube channel. The next choice was Choo-Choo Charlie, but after learning that it was an existing Stephen King character, he had to switch it up again.

“I decided to swap Charlie for Charles, since it just sounded right,” Eisenbeisz says. “The only other contending names were Choo-Choo Chandler, and Choo-Choo Chad. There are surprisingly few names that start with ‘Ch’.”

“Choo-Choo Chandler” would have been very funny, but as someone named Charles, I’m glad to get some representation. Choo-Choo Charles will be released on Steam later this year.