Do you like trains? And beautiful animation? And dogs? And puzzles? And video games? Of course you do, which is why you’re going to like Railbound as much as I did.
Released this week on PC, Mac, iOS and Android, Railbound is a puzzle game that gives you a cute little train separated from its cute little carriages, and asks you to get everyone reunited as quickly and cleanly as possible. You, as a disembodied railway engineer, have to lay a limited number of tracks in a way that not only gets the carriages back to the train, but more importantly gets them there in order.
Railbounds’ trailer explains what I’m talking about:
This game is wonderful. The puzzles are nice and taxing, and ramp up in complexity at just the right speed, but it’s the presentation that sets it apart. The trains don’t just move, they lurch. You don’t just put tracks down, they pop on landing. Everything is cute and fun and has a real sense of tangibility to it, as though we were messing with a board game, or a chunky children’s toy.
There are over 150 stages to get through, most presented like a linear campaign but some existing as unlockable alternatives to these. And it’s the timing element to the puzzles that makes the difference here; simply getting the carriages hooked up is often no big deal, but getting them connected in the right sequence can be a nightmare, requiring all kinds of trial and error.
Luckily things never get truly frustrating; it’s so easy to go back a step or restart a puzzle, and everything is so bright and cheery and playful—helped by its laid-back soundtrack—that you can spend an age getting everything wrong but still feeling nothing but joy.
While the game is “out” this week, there’s also even more content coming later in 2022, with the developers promising “new worlds with a brand-new mechanic” (semaphores) along with “accessibility fixes, including a colorblind mode”.