I love co-op games. Playing with my wife or friends is great, and made even greater if we’re working together to achieve the same goal. And we’ll play all sorts of cooperative games, from Overcooked to Deep Rock Galactic—we’re not confined to a single genre. But I find that those games that require constant communication can be the most chaotic, and the most fun. Unrailed! definitely fits into that last category.
Unrailed! is a co-op puzzle game where your objective is to construct the track of a train while the train creeps forward. If it gets to the point where there is no track, then you lose. Connect your track to train stations and you can use bolts you earn or find to buy upgrades, unlock new cars, or unlock different engines. You can play with up to four players cooperatively, and in a two versus two competitive mode.
Despite its deceptive simplicity, there are a lot of moving parts to Unrailed!. No two playthroughs are the same, because not only are the level layouts different, but also because of its inherently chaotic nature. Tools cannot be shared between players. There’s one pickaxe for mining iron, one axe for cutting trees, and one bucket for dousing the train. You have to carry wood and iron to a collection hopper, where tracks are then automatically made.
Each train can consist of a number of wagons, with the number of wagons you can pull based on which engine you’re using. Different wagons have different uses, but you start with a cooling tank, resource hopper, and track builder. There are over a dozen different wagons—from extra storage, to brakes that help slow the train. Wagons can make life a lot easier by enabling players to paths, buffing players, providing light, etc. Clearing a path and making sure your train stays on its rails is hectic work that requires close communication, with the troubles you run into varying from environment to environment.
There are a few different biomes in Unrailed!, and each changes the gameplay significantly. Each biome contains animals can be used for buffs, but sometimes they’ll get in your way, and hinder you other ways—like camels drinking your water in the desert biome. There is a dynamic weather system, as well as a day night cycle. Snow in the winter biome slows you down, and obscures the materials you can mine. But that’s not nearly as bad as the hell biome, which is full of lava, ghosts, and other hazards that will complicate your track building. You’ll have to have good teamwork to get that far, but even if you don’t have friends, Unrailed! can be played solo.
Unrailed! has a single player mode if you don’t have friends around, but it’s not the most ideal experience. In fact, the bot AI is probably one of my biggest complaints of Unrailed!. They’re helpful, but you must constantly micromanage your bot buddy. But even then they’ll get themselves trapped, or stuck not doing anything productive. There are ways to nudge them to the correct path, but the bot isn’t proactive. Sometimes, the bot has even sabotaged my run by bringing a tool close to the edge of the screen, where it was lost due to the ever-panning camera.
There are multiple ways you can play Unrailed!. There is an endless mode, where you can try to beat your high score. There is a quick mode where you only play from one station to another, and is great for quick games. There is sandbox mode which allows you to configure your train the way you want—but only from parts you’ve unlocked while playing the endless mode. And there is a versus mode, which I never had the opportunity to try. It’s too bad, because this two versus two mode is all about slowing down your opponent while building your own track.
Unrailed! has plenty of characters, as well as different wagons and engines. There are 29 characters to eventually unlock, and a total of 47 wagons/engines. Most of these 47 are upgrade variants, but that’s still a lot to work towards.
I think Unrailed! is going to be one of my go-to party games. It might not pick up steam like Overcooked, but it definitely has the potential. It’s great, chaotic fun with friends, and it has a pretty high skill ceiling to ensure replayability. If you’re looking for a new co-op game to play with your friends, I highly recommend Unrailed!.
Unrailed! is leaving Steam Early Access on September 23rd.
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