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Unrailed! Review: Don't Miss This Train

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The hunger of the train is boundless, and it’s on the move. As players dart and dash into each other scrambling to feed its needs, manufacturing tiles by the dozen, the world of chaotic new multiplayer game Unrailed! transforms from a dense voxel wilderness into buzzing infrastructure. It makes for a uniquely absorbing 1-to-4 player party game and, while its singleplayer can get strained, Unrailed! is mostly one of a kind. Overcooked! fans will be intrigued, but it’s a train game really built for the long haul.

Track construction requires wood and stone, available in abundance in forests and mountains, all of which can be broken down with a provided axe and pick. These are the unshakeable main concerns, along with unbreakable granite walls and crafting bridges over bodies of water. In the game’s roguelike endless mode - probably Unrailed!'s main draw -the engine moves a little faster past each checkpoint breather, usually leading to more complicated level design beyond. New engines can be purchased to access new biomes, each of which have their own wrinkles and obstacles; snowy levels cover up the ground and make it tougher to walk through, and the hell area lives up to its name.

Unrailed! has a very simplistic, almost childish visual style that works well, despite the fact that it can make certain assets hard to see. A chunk of mined rock hiding behind granite looks very similar to a chunk of wood, and each player mainly needs just the A button and B buttons, for picking and placing objects and dashing, respectively. Mining and chopping is performed automatically when next to a resource, an imprecise mechanic which takes longer to get used to than virtually anything else in the game, but spending time with it makes the gameplay feel like second nature, soon enough.

There’s a singleplayer endless mode where Unrailed! provides a one-track-mind AI companion, which is at least more suitable than that of the recently released Darksburg, but Unrailed! is built for multiplayer and should be experienced as such. Playing along with friends and voice chat is probably ideal, yet the game is also unusually well suited alongside silent randos. The same emotes which guide the AI robot become functional shorthand for all sorts of needs, and there’s a certain magic when deciding on train upgrades in between checkpoints as players stand on their preferred wagons and furiously insist-via-emote for the best use of bolts, Unrailed!’s special upgrade currency. In comparable multiplayer light strategy games (such as the aforementioned Overcooked!), this would seem impossible to wrangle, but emotes here are directly useful and hilarious, with everyone spamming angry emojis when a misplaced TNT bundle blows up the squad.

There are other ways to play, including a less stressful sandbox mode and a 2v2 competitive race (as well as replayable seeds and one-time saves), but endless was always the most fun with friends and strangers. Although the online lobby system seemed unreliable during testing, a bustling Unrailed! community lives on its official Discord, and the game is very playable even in high-ping, rubberbanding scenarios. The only real drawback of playing online is the time investment; most competent attempts require the dedication of a solid hour or more, so be warned that there’s a level of commitment involved, save files notwithstanding.

Thieves can steal resources and cows generally get in the way of the work, but most derailments are player-driven. It takes a few games to learn that the train itself is a pressing obstacle in its own right, and digging thin tunnels for track placement will trap players around and behind it, or lock off items in the distance as the screen mercilessly scrolls along. A bucket of water keeps the engine cold and running, but leaving it forgotten at a distant lake results in a burning train and no way to rescue it. Unrailed! teaches best practices over time, and there is something truly satisfying about having an attentive team harmoniously bonding over the work, sharing tools and politely spacing for others to speed past them.

That’s the beauty of Unrailed!, this emergent feeling of a hivemind, whether mutely online or barking orders on a couch. Helped along by a sharp design and an energetically cinematic soundtrack, it imparts a sense of unity, even when a few inevitable mistakes derail an hour of work. The simplicity of the game can seem inelegant and makes some tasks clumsier than they should be, but it also makes it easier for even the less game-literate to grab a controller and join in, which is bountiful praise indeed.

Unrailed! is out now on Steam for PC, as well Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
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Looks promising! I think this one would be really cool to play with the little one. Gives something to do other watch watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! LOL

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