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Published 15.09.2022 00:00
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Railbound review

Puzzle games don't have to be complicated to be fun, but they do have to find a way to distinguish themselves from others. Railbound certainly looks nice and serves up some clever puzzles, but its train-based puzzling feels like a well-worn idea that doesn't get shaken up enough to make it feel more than simply competent.

Locomotive link-up

Railbound consists primarily of levels on a grid where your goal is to place railroad tracks so they provide a path for train cars to link up to a locomotive. Most levels begin with scattered pieces of rail already placed and immovable from their predefined locations while you have to fill in the gaps with a limited set of track pieces.

Once your path is set, you tap a button to watch the train cars go. If you mapped things out right, the cars connect to the engine and you chug off to the next level. If you are wrong, you get to watch how things go awry before resetting and trying a different track layout.

Tricky tracks

At the start of Railbound, the primary constraint on creating paths for your train cars is a limited amount of track pieces. The further you get in the game, more complicating factors start emerging like multiple train cars, tunnels, gates, switches, and more.

Each time one of these new features gets introduced, Railbound is pretty careful about rolling back the difficulty to let you learn how it works before layering previously explored mechanics back in. If at any point you get hung up on a particular challenge, you can often hop out of it and instead try a secondary level or even unlock all levels or toggle on a hint system in the game's settings.

One-track mind

Railbound has a ton of track-placing puzzling to offer and its levels are divided into different worlds that make good use of color and make the game look nice and varied. Its challenges are also pretty clever and contain more than the occasional stumper. Many times when playing, I had to take breaks so I could come back with a fresh perspective to tease out solutions.

This all sounds well and good, and for the most part it is, but all while playing Railbound I was also hoping and looking for something that would really open up the game's possibility space or add some more personality to its puzzling. There are some cute drawings of dogs who are the characters taking these trains on their journeys, but the glimpses we get of them are few and far between.

The bottom line

Railbound is a perfectly competent puzzle game. There's nothing wrong with that except for the fact that I could say that about a lot of other games on iOS as well. There are some unique things about this track-laying game, but they don't leave a lasting impression.

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