Railbound review: a charming, first class puzzler

The sight of a two-carriage practice is generally one thing that prompts a deep sigh of despair from me in actual life. 9 instances out of ten, it is a signal that one thing’s gone mistaken additional up the road – that somebody, someplace, has despatched out a practice with half its typical variety of carriages, and is subsequently destined to smash everybody’s day within the course of by cramming us all in like a pack of sardines.

In Afterburn’s cute practice puzzler Railbound, nonetheless, two carriages are a trigger for celebration. In a sport that is about guiding numbered compartments onto the again of an engine (utilizing a restricted variety of monitor tiles to get them there in the correct order), two-carriage puzzles provide the proper quantity of cerebral head-scratching. They have a bit extra chunk than merely guiding a single carriage to its vacation spot, however they are not so difficult that they’re going to repeatedly make you attain for the trace button that will help you fill within the gaps. Railbound tends to be a bit too summary in its later levels, however extra on that in a sec. All you have to know proper now’s that there are many sensible concepts to wrap your head round right here, and that you will be grinning from ear to ear by the point you attain the top of the road.

Railbound’s good-looking presentation goes a great distance in creating its cosy, comforting feeling of puzzle-y cleverness. Its heat color palette and cel-shaded visuals instantly think of the identical type of pastoral scenes as Dorfromantik – and heck, for those who squint a bit, these jolly little steam trains might nearly be the proper facsimile of those that potter about in Toukana’s chill village builder. Even Railbound’s ambient soundtrack has a equally calming, peaceable vibe, and along with its easy, clear UI and management scheme (which works simply as effectively on a controller because it does with a mouse and keyboard), all of it provides as much as create an agreeable, pleasant environment to noodle away in together with your trial-and-error monitor designs.

The primary world acts as a brisk tutorial, introducing you to easy obstacles, monitor loops and a number of carriages, however every subsequent world has its personal distinctive hook, starting from teleporting tunnels, limitations, switches, alerts, and ultimately precise platforms the place you’ll be able to choose up passengers. Later ranges will usually mix a number of of those components collectively, however not earlier than Railbound has absolutely explored every particular person concept by itself. It does an important job of constructing positive you have received the instruments and essential know-how to sort out these extra difficult combos, and every world’s core set of ranges construct and evolve in more and more pleasing and pleasant methods.

A red steam train travels down a beach track in Railbound

A jungle puzzle in Railbound featuring two carriages and a yellow switch track.

A snowy puzzle in Railbound featuring two carriages and two platforms.

A desert puzzle in Railbound featuring one carriage and an extra freight car.

Nonetheless, for a sport that prides itself on taking a extra relaxed method to its track-based puzzles, Railbound can generally really feel prefer it’s transferring a bit too quick for its personal good. For instance, most worlds solely have round ten core puzzles to finish earlier than you are whisked away to the subsequent one, and with every puzzle rolling seamlessly into one other (courtesy of a quite attractive transition of accomplished trains disappearing right into a puff of smoke which then morphs into the cartoon clouds of the subsequent overhead scene), it could actually generally depart some concepts feeling undercooked.

That is largely as a result of a whole lot of Railbound’s finest puzzles are squirrelled away into separate cul-de-sacs, requiring you to dip again into the primary menu display and peel off down a unique monitor to finish them. These further puzzles will usually riff on the structure of a specific stage, so logically it is smart to try to full them on the identical time, however the sport’s relentless obsession with ploughing on towards the end line runs counter to this, like its affected by its personal type of tunnel imaginative and prescient. It is a disgrace, as I might have liked the choice to linger slightly longer in these fascinating offshoots, or at the very least have a pair extra of them integrated into the central route.

A four carriage train puzzle in Railbound

I am not gonna lie, World 8 and its freeform four-carriage practice puzzles positively received the higher of me.

Fortunately, getting again to the primary menu display is just about instantaneous, so that you needn’t fear about any delays worming their approach into your puzzling itinerary. I additionally appreciated the choice to unlock each puzzle from the off quite than having to finish them one after the other. Nonetheless, (in my overview construct, at the very least) I might have most popular the trace system to be enabled by default, as you are nearly actually going to want it afterward. Railbound’s end-game puzzles could be fairly daunting with no little bit of steerage, and essentially the most troublesome ones both require too many psychological gymnastic leaps or are so freeform that even understanding the place to begin generally is a problem.

A jungle puzzle featuring two trains and some visible hints in Railbound

Urgent the trace button will trigger small white traces to look onscreen, telling you the place sure monitor items must go to unravel the puzzle.

The excellent news is that this can be a trace system executed proper, with one press providing a few small clues as to the place sure monitor items are supposed to be positioned, with one other press providing a handful extra and so forth. It would not inform you the reply outright, leaving simply sufficient leeway to keep up the phantasm of getting solved it by yourself phrases – and normally that first small nudge was all I wanted to ship me on my approach.

Except for these late-game niggles, Railbound is an absolute charmer. Whereas a lot of its 150+ puzzles might maybe be higher built-in into its mainline puzzle path, that is nonetheless a sport the place you may need to discover each nook and cranny to see how it will take a look at you subsequent. There’s loads to love in what Afterburn have created right here, particularly if Dorfromantik’s excessive rating tables have left you craving for a extra conventional type of puzzler in a equally cosy panorama. With a complete journey time of roughly three to 4 hours, Railbound is one departure you will not need to miss.

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