In the age of uncertainty, many gamers are looking for ways to play with friends, especially online. Of course, the market for multiplayer games is astonishingly huge, and you’ve got a wealth of options at your disposal. However, if your tastes are more specific, if you’re looking not only for a multiplayer game but one in which communication and teamwork are key to success (or at least excellence and distinction before inevitable failure), the field narrows somewhat. Enter Unrailed!, a game in which this teamwork component is a core gameplay feature. Chop wood, mine iron, lay down tracks, and chase off rustlers as your impetuous, upgradeable train hurtles towards its blocky doom.
- What is Unrailed? It’s a co-op multiplayer game in which players must build tracks in front of a train so that it can traverse an endless, procedurally generated world of rocks, trees, cattle, and rustlers before its inevitable destruction.
- Reviewed On: PC
- Price: $19.99
- Developer: Indoor Astronaut
- Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, bilibili (China)
- Release Date: September 23, 2020
- Website: https://unrailed-game.com/
- Multiplayer: Local, online co-op and PvP
That Choo-Choo Charm
Unrailed! immediately conveys a lot of character with its blocky, pixelated graphical style and easygoing atmosphere. Its world is quirky and colorful, filled out with ducks and cattle, brimming with personality. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is understated but effective. And the reference it makes to the Wii menu music is profoundly strange, but in this peculiar little world, it’s a touch that works.
The characters you can choose from are also varied and charmingly eccentric. You could have anyone from an old man in a long black duster to an iron-mining, wood-chopping penguin. In this way (and in quite a few others), it’s not unlike Overcooked, and as a player, you can find a suitably strange avatar to fill out your little corner of the railway.
More important to the overall experience than pure aesthetics is visual clarity, and this is something that Unrailed! nails as well. Whether a tool is about to disappear off the edge of the side-scrolling screen, or the train is about to derail, you get a clear, flashing caution sign to warn you beforehand. And despite the prevalence of numerous small deposits of ore and timber scattered across the ground, one rarely has to scrutinize the environment for long before finding the right tool or crafting material.
The train itself, and each individual car, also need to be instantly recognizable. This is crucial, since your crafting is done via a train car, and various cars you can purchase with Bolts come with their own abilities. Again, this is executed with the same style and precision exhibited by the rest of the game. The visual style of Unrailed! succeeds on two fronts: it conveys critical information in a clear, understandable way, and it looks good doing it.
How does the gameplay itself hold up? When playing by oneself, the player has an AI companion (fittingly represented by a robot) who will follow orders, including a waypoint system that allows for the specification of various points to mine, chop, lay down a bridge or track, etc. This system, while not quite as exciting as its multiplayer counterpart, is perfectly fun and functional. While the waypoint system can be a little finicky and unwieldy at times, playing solo is a mellow, methodical experience that works well for what it is.
Multiplayer is another beast entirely. Throwing more people into the experience makes Unrailed! chaotic, hectic, and messy in all the best ways. If playing with a group of friends, be prepared for confusion, exhilaration, and bouts of unrestrained laughter. You can play co-op or versus, but coordination and cooperation are the heart of the experience.
Local play works for small get-togethers, in spite of the slight headache dealing with split inputs and controllers and such. Otherwise, Unrailed! features online play to scratch that multiplayer itch. Once you’ve got a group going (and I’d recommend playing with people you know and can talk to while playing, the emote system is serviceable but not comparable to proper communication), employing teamwork and dividing tasks to keep the train chugging is a blast.
Finally, with ever-changing biomes, different modes, and endless replayability, Unrailed! is certainly worthy of being among a friend group’s multiplayer mainstays. In another comparison to Overcooked, your success is largely contingent on your ability to communicate and work in tandem. Some multiplayer games can feel a bit disconnected, with each player basically doing their own thing without consulting the others. If you’ve been hankering for the former and tiring of the latter, Unrailed! is definitely a solid pick.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Unrailed! is stylish and silly, charming and chaotic. It’s decent fun playing on your own or against other players, but the heart of the game is cooperation and the mad dash to stay ahead of your ill-fated locomotive. Its audiovisuals serve the game’s aesthetic needs as well as its vital gameplay functions, conveying key information in a timely, understandable way. Overall, this teamwork-based track-laying sim is a solid addition to any friend group’s multiplayer repertoire.
- Fun, hectic cooperative gameplay
- Charming style and personality
- Clear, pleasing audiovisuals
- Some clunkiness sorting out local play
- Awkward controls here and there
- Game feels somewhat limited outside of its core appeal