I’m always game for a new puzzle games but PC in particular is a platform filled mostly with gimmicks rather than lengthy gameplay. This is where standouts like Railbound thrive: a simple, adorable and relaxing game that will either challenge you or let you coast thru an 150-level gauntlet of cab-coupling fun which gets more complex after each level.
Developed by Polish studio Afterburn and released September 6th 2022, Railbound is available for Steam for both Windows and Mac as well as for mobile on both Android and iOS. Priced $12.99 for PC and $4.99 on mobile, the game is available now at the following links:
In Railbound, you are apparently a dog accompanied by another dog where your goal is to connect the world via your train journey. As the game progress, the landscape changes but new puzzle elements are also introduced, many of which affect track behavior which ultimately affects the solution. Lore pretty much sits on the backburner here, as there’s no dialog in Railbound but you’re given some nice photos of our adventuring canines as they progress thru the in-game world.
From the peaceful woodlands, to the rocky desert, snowy mountains, sunny beaches and even some night tracks, Railbound gives a feel of progress with the newer areas.
Railbound will immediate thrust you in-game but the first section of the game is primarily a learning session where you grasp the basics. Theres’ no tutorial per se, but the levels lay out the goals uniquely and provide context to some action you need to when laying down tracks. You are given a certain number of steps to complete the tracks and while it starts of fairly easy, once multiple cabs, tunnels, stops and switches get introduced, it really gets complex.
In general, the puzzle concept of Railbound is similar to limited step puzzles found in other games so if you’re adept at those and love those kinds of games, then this is ideal for you.
You’ll often see the word relaxing tied to this game and that’s true: the BGM that play on repeat is exquisitely subtle and relaxing and couple this by the soft graphics, its a true relaxing atmosphere. I am typing at 3am right now with headphones on while the game is playing its BGM and while not driving me to sleep, it does lull me into that relaxed state.
This packaging of cute and adorable does belie this game’s potential to drive adept players to dash thru levels. Breezing thru World 1 was easy but World 2 introduces a whole new set of challenges and onwards it goes. The game starts to move very fast if you end up acing the levels and while not challenging, is still mentally draining if you’re trying to speedrun the game. It will ultimately be up to you as the game doesn’t have a timer nor have a timed mode where you need to finish levels in certain time limits.
The game itself actually paces the game a bit too quickly as it moves level-to-level and world-to-world. After moving to World 2, I just realized I didn’t finish some puzzles in World 1, only to realize they are not on the main track of the actual maps but rather variants of main levels e.g. Level 1-13A is a variant of Level 1-13 and to be honest, my first roadblock on this game.
After 30 minutes, I end up finding out there’s a hint system one can enable to get hints on the levels. I particularly don’t like assistance but I can accept it when I have to. And to be fair, many of the variant levels are very fun puzzles, easily worth cruising through the main levels only to get punished by these alt-stages.
I have to praise Afterburn for their consistent art style for this game and as someone who grew playing with my baby brother with Scribblenauts, is very close to the heart. As already mentioned, the game theme is excellent and the subtle effects are just right and nothing grand.
The menu system for this is laid out right in front of your eyes and missing them after scanning the science is just not paying attention. The game doesn’t penalize you for retrying if you have a mistake as well as undoing your track layout. The reset option clears all user laid tracks and resets your steps. You can undo 1 step at a time as well.
As mentioned earlier, there is a hint system in this game and by World 2 alone, some of the map mechanic may be too much for some folks that not even Railbound’s relaxed way of holding your hands may be enough to drive the point home. I highly advise to enable hints when playing the game especially for younger players who not yet grasp the complex mechanics of the game.
Ultimately, Railbound’s a fun puzzle game and for the amount of content it has, its PC asking price is just right. If you feel like this is the kind of game you want to be dozing off to, then the mobile version is definitely cheaper at $4.99.
I do have the point out that I’ve yet to finish the game but should it end of the World 8’s final level then one can easily memorized the puzzles and cruise thru the game which really hurts replayability. A type of gauntlet mode where random puzzles and a time limit could be a potential end-game game mode which should add further challenge to the game as well simply creating a more complex sets of puzzles for endgame, one that allows for a certain type of randomness which should really add a challenge.
As the game’s theme suggests, this is a game of exploration where our two canine protagonist set out to connect the world. In a literal sense though, the game does need some exploring to work out its deeper treasures.
Railbound is nice and charming title to relax to (of if you’re like me, clear your save game every time and run thru the game as fast as possible). Total playtime should be in the 3 hours range but you’ll encounter that one level that will really piss you off and I feel that’s one of the best experiences from this game.
If you love puzzle games, consider checking out Railbound on mobile or PC.