When the first train tracks rolled out across the industrial Leeds landscape I expect the team of workers were under a lot of pressure to get it right. Possibly not quite as much as the players in Daedalic Entertainment and Indoor Astronaut’s Unrailed, though.
The idea of Unrailed is simple; work together with up to three other players to build tracks and clear obstacles over procedurally generated terrains in order to somehow make it to the next station, before starting all over again. It can be played in single-player with AI helpers but it’s not quite the same experience as getting a few friends together (warning: may fracture friendships!).
The game starts of fairly easily with the train always moving slowly across the landscape and few obstacles in your way. You pick up pieces of track from the back of the train and then place then at the front, winding around hills and other obstacles until you make it to the station. Later levels see you deal with harsher climates such as lava and rocks, all of which need to be maneuvered around or broken down, while day turns to night and all you can see is the pool of light around your characters, making it tricky to see more than a few feet ahead.
Teamwork is forced by the ability to just use one tool at a time, so one of you needs to be responsible for laying the track while another could be gathering water to cool the train’s engine or break down rocks. It reminds me of the Overcooked games in terms of how mad it gets watching your teammate seemingly take an age to do something urgent. You’re forced to use an emoji system on a wheel when not playing in the same room but it actually does a great job of giving you enough communication to tell others what to do, plus you can add waypoint markers to show where you want something put or for a place you need someone to focus on.
The blocky 8-bit style graphics are a perfect fit for the game and the developers have used this to their advantage in creating the landscapes but they’ve gone a step further by adding tricks such as rotating the screen (playing upside down is infuriating!). The detailed landscapes are a joy to behold despite the low-fi graphics, there’s so much going on and you rarely have time to take it all in when playing but watching someone else play I appreciated the attention to detail more.
Unrailed is another great addition to the range of frantic multiplayer games that force you to work with friends but make you often feel like you’re working against them. The difficulty is pitched just right to make it hilariously frustrating at times but to also urge you to have one more go. If you want to test friendships, get unrailed.