The first thing you need to know about Railbound is that it is absolutely, 100% adorable. From the warm color palette chosen by the developers to the calming aural experience, Railbound is about a peaceful experience. I’d liken it to a video game version of that sudoku book your mother loves so much. If you’re looking for a true puzzler with which to decompress after a long day, look no further than Railbound.
Railbound is very married to its puzzler identity, and as a result, there isn’t much in the way of a plot. The general idea is that you must connect railcars to the back of a train in numerical order, and you do that by way of placing track tiles. Along the way, you’ll need to navigate obstacles and take advantage of more advanced tiles: platforms for passengers, teleporting tunnels, signals, switches, and even barriers, and that’s really the basic outline of the game.
In addition to learning how to lay track tiles, you’ll also transition between eight different worlds, often that feature a different unique tile. Each world has about ten puzzles, and you can complete the game in four-ish hours. However, Railbound’s UI and graphical simplicity belie the title’s actual difficulty marker, and that difficulty level steadily ramps up the farther you progress through the game.
The first thing you need to know is that you have a limited number of track tiles available to you, and you have to lay those tracks so as to be able to couple the cars in numerical order, as I mentioned above. In practical terms, these requirements mean that each puzzle only has one solution that it’s up to you as the player to find. You have to think through the puzzle while remembering that you may need to use a switch or a tunnel to avoid an obstacle, all while dodging trains that will lock on to your painstakingly positioned carriages and destroy your carefully laid plans. There’s an actual railroad term for this activity; it’s called “shunting.” I legitimately had to look that up.
Railbound offsets the difficulty level with a well-done hint system. You control the number of hints you receive, meaning that if you don’t want to spoil the puzzle, it’s not necessary to do so. Even at its greatest level, the hint system never solves the problem for you, which is nice.
If there is a complaint that I have about Railbound, it’s that you need to access some of the more interesting puzzles via the main menu. Reaching these puzzles requires that you move away from the main puzzle line and head off in an entirely different direction. The “extra” puzzles are related to the world in which you find them, much like the main puzzle line, but because Railbound tends to shuttle you from one world to the next immediately after completing the main puzzle line, you might miss them. I imagine these puzzles exist to give the game replayability, which it ordinarily would lack given the single solution puzzle-type employed by this title.
Railbound is one of those games you can curl up on a chilly winter’s night, with your cocoa, and play. There’s not really any danger of needing to complete it in one sitting, though you could. Railbound is very much a title you can pick up and put down so long as you pay attention to the menus and hints. While the puzzles do become progressively more difficult, the hint system certainly works well to dig you out of a snarl. There’s nothing here that would prohibit children from playing. It’s just plain adorable.
Railbound retails for $12.99 on Steam.
- The music is pretty much what you’d expect, but it does add a certain ambience to the gameplay.
- I cannot stress enough how just plain wholesome this title is. I had no idea I needed that level of wholesome in my life.
- Yep, I did have to look up shunting. I knew there was a term for the trains that move other trains around, but I couldn’t put my finger on the word. Fortunately, Wikipedia had my back.