As a girl who grew up around men and boys who loved trains, I was pretty immersed in the genre in my childhood. From real life trains to just about every train game that existed in the 90s, I had a front row seat to all of that. Unfortunately, I never developed the love for the machines that my brother and grandfather had, but train games still make me turn my head. Stick a dog in the banner image and I’m intrigued and absolutely willing to download afterburn’s Railbound demo.
Railbound is a casual puzzle game, similar to afterburn’s previously published titles like inbento. The basic concept of Railbound is that the train needs to get going, but in order to do that, you first need to connect the tracks so the carriage cars can attach to the engine. Like many great puzzle games, the basic concept is surprisingly simple to start with. Draw tracks, connect carriages, nothing too difficult to master there. The first few levels hold your hand and show you the ropes of placing, deleting, and editing tracks before getting into anything too crazy.
The levels then start to add more train carriages for you to hook up, which you also need to do in numerical order, and add other challenges to the set-up, as well as fixed pieces of track and a limited number of squares of track that you can lay down in order to complete the puzzle. As the levels get higher there are other challenges like starting directions and the gates and buttons that open them. While these all sound simple by themselves, when you start combining elements, like three train cars facing separate directions and one less piece of track than the obvious solution would need, it gets tricky quickly.
As with any puzzle game, Railbound is best played in bursts. Once you get into the headspace where you think in terms of tracks and trains, it gets substantially easier, rather than looking at it as just another puzzle. However, what’s great is that you can play it however you like, one level at a time, twelve at a time, or just sit down and finish the entire demo in one go, the game is flexible.
Railbound’s animation and art style is cute, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a children’s book and has that blend of 2D and 3D charm that sets it off just right. The little details are adorable, like the carriages bumping together when they connect or the small puffs of smoke when you accidentally cause a collision. Unfortunately, I have yet to see the dog from the Steam banner, but I’m hopeful that he’ll get added in later levels.
You don’t have to be a total train enthusiast to love Railbound, though the game will definitely appeal to that demographic. Anyone looking for a fun, casual puzzling experience can have a good time, and the complexity promises an appeal for hardcore puzzle fans once the full game launches.
TechRaptor previewed Railbound on PC with a copy downloaded by the reviewer. It will be launching for PC on a currently unannounced date.