While action-packed shooters and sports sims really get the adrenaline pumping, it’s occasionally nice to just settle down with a more relaxing game. Maybe something like Railway Islands – Puzzle, which wants to create a chilled-out vibe for its railway connecting antics.
Will this relatively cheap and minimalistic puzzler deliver a satisfying experience, or is Railway Islands – Puzzle a journey not worth boarding?
In Railway Islands – Puzzle, you’re essentially playing the role of a railway line manager responsible for ensuring trains reach their destinations on a group of islands. You’re going to have a real job on your hands as the railway tracks in place are all mixed up and so there’s no route to connect the red entry tunnel to the blue exit tunnel. There are fifty islands, which translates to fifty levels, and you must create safe passage for the train to deliver resources to the residents, before exiting the level.
Each piece of the track is represented by a hexagonal tile, which can be swapped with other tiles on the island. These can also be rotated to align the sections up accordingly, in order to complete a full circuit; any breakages will see the train come to a halt and the level restarts. The concept itself can’t be knocked and I like the fact that it works almost like a jigsaw puzzle and Pipe Mania style hybrid, but the controls are a nightmare and cause annoyance from the off.
You’re presented with a cursor that’s used for highlighting tiles you wish to either rotate or select to swap. The first problem is the accuracy of it, occasionally not registering the fact you’re hovering over a particular tile. And then there are times where the action performed just fails to happen, affecting acts of rotation and swapping. The weirdest issue however, sees the cursor hit numerous invisible walls whilst navigating islands. All of that combined is a real nuisance.
In regards to the puzzling, it’s great how Railway Islands builds the concept along the way. Initially, the difficulty is rather kind as the number of tiles is low, with only straight and curved pieces of track to worry about, which makes solutions fairly obvious. Swiftly though, new types of tiles are introduced like a criss-cross piece, one that splits the track into two or three routes, and even elevated track to reach the higher parts of an island. Heck, it also adds splitting track tiles which have a set number of usage before the line actually switches.
There’s a lot to factor in, but anyone familiar with jigsaws will know that the edges are often the best places to begin and it’s similar here. Then you have to ensure the track passes by certain stops to drop off resources, such as bananas, steel, meat, money, and more. It really forces you to picture the potential routes in your mind and then it’s a case of putting your imagination into practice. The splitting track pieces are often the trickiest to work into the circuit, but a bit of trial and error with them doesn’t do any harm as restarts are quick.
Upon completing the levels in which the more specialist tiles are prevalent, you definitely get the eureka moments. These wear off as you approach the latter stages sadly, but only due to a lack of fresh ideas beyond – roughly – the halfway point. Once you’ve seen every type of tile and the interesting looping circuits they become a part of, Railway Islands – Puzzle does feel samey. The change of the environment from summer to autumn and winter is nice, featuring vibrant colours, but when spring arrives, it’s too reminiscent of summer – giving off more familiar feelings.
To be fair though, you could have Railway Islands – Puzzle all wrapped up in four to six hours, so the lack of freshness won’t be a problem for long. After finishing the fifty levels, there’s another option to prolong the experience in the form of the Workshop. Basically, it’s an outlet to create your own puzzling island circuits to share with the world and test their solving skills, or to simply try out the puzzles made by other players. Due to the controls being a pain, the whole creation suite is more of a chore, but still, it’s a decent extra to have in place.
Railway Islands – Puzzle goes full steam ahead with delivering great circuit based puzzles, but issues keep slamming on the brakes. The relaxing atmosphere conjured up by the art style and melancholic BGM is completely offset by the occasionally unresponsive and frustrating controls. And that’s a shame because the puzzles are well put together, with the clever circuit designs posing enough of a challenge to engage your brain, without coming across as too difficult.
The super cheap price tag and intriguing puzzles might just tilt the balance in favour of a Railway Islands – Puzzle purchase. Just be aware that this one is always on the verge of going off the rails.
Railway Islands – Puzzle is available to buy from the Xbox Store