To my surprise, the Royal Mail hasn’t created a post office simulation game yet. Where are you, developers? In fact, the only real mail-focused game we’ve had is Death Stranding. At least until now. See, Pnevmo-Capsula is a small game from an indie developer in which you play the part of a small capsule on rails, delivering messages across a 1970’s steampunk version of Russia. Are you ready to get your delivery on?
The steampunk world is something I’ve always admired from afar, albeit one that I’ve rarely really delved into. From my understanding, it’s a reimagining of a point of history, mixed with some 19th-century mechanical engineering and a smattering of sci-fi. In essence, what Pnevmo-Capsula does is put you on an ‘on rails’ journey through a fictionalised version of 1970’s Russia; a land full of propaganda and strange mechanics. The story of world tales is picked up as you move along, open to interpretation as you progress. It’s a world that captivated me and I wanted to learn more about it, tempted to spend some more time in what it holds. There are hints and fragments which point to rules and structures which, while frustrating, do allow the setup to become rather fascinating.
I don’t think I’ve ever played as a capsule on rails in any other game, and in that respect Pnevmo-Capsula is interesting and unique. The premise is that you move forward and backward across the rails, speeding up the progress in either direction. The only other command you have at your fingertips is to project a small amount of electrical charge as you see fit; that is your main means for operating things.
As you move along the track, opportunities arise. For example, you will encounter some electrical breakers which when activated with your charge will change the direction of the track. Here you can move along, making the most of previously blocked pathways or discovering different routes through to your goal. Your main task – at least I think – is to deliver telegrams as you arrive at some holding areas where you can activate a special telegram device. Here you have to switch it on and do some twiddling to activate the lights in the right order. There are some codes to be entered, which are obtained by careful observations of the surrounding area around these machines. This is my favourite part of the game and it makes you scratch your brain in a good way.
However, Pnevmo-Capsula suffers at times from the awkwardness of the control system; the buttons don’t feel in the right places. This isn’t helped by an absolute lack of instructions and you’ll rarely know what you need to do next. I’ll admit, at the beginning of Pnevmo-Capsula, I was stuck for ten minutes not knowing what the hell to do next. That was until the magic of YouTube came to my rescue. I’ll fully understand if some love and applaud this lack of direction, but all I’ll say is good luck to you.
Pnevmo-Capsula does look nice though and some of the visuals are extremely neat with some amazing backdrops, from interiors to the exterior of a steampunk world as your little capsule whizzes by. There are some nice designs included, especially near the telegram machines where the walls are decorated with brilliantly designed scientific drawings and images. The one problem I have had with the whole thing though is that when the camera is zoomed out, showing whole sections, it’s extremely hard to see where you are and what you are doing.
Better is the soundtrack which has a nicely atmospheric low-key vibe to it, one that fits well within the world.
Pnevmo-Capsula is an inventive, yet short, puzzle game. It comes with a nice cheap price that ensures the experience is probably worth a punt, but the lack of hand-holding and need of direction will put a lot of people off. The puzzles are nicely original though and the world it creates is an intriguing one so if you want to know what it’s like to be a part of steampunk delivery service then Pnevmo-Capsula may well be the game for you.
Pnevmo-Capsula is available on the Xbox Store