Unrailed (Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One, Mac, Linux)

Unrailed is a simple co-op game of cooperation where there are a limited number of tasks to be done, but the players have to juggle them all to keep the game going. Players try to manage a self-propelled train that manufactures its own rails as it moves across a retro-pixelated landscape. The game becomes a balance of clearing a path, feeding the train raw materials, while keeping an eye out for in-game bonuses. While not particularly complicated, its casual play style can be fun with the right crowd.

There are four main jobs in Unrailed: chopping down trees for wood, mining hills for metal, feeding the wood and metal to the train car (which automatically generates track), and placing track in front of the train to keep it going. The fifth job – clearing a path for the train, is hopefully taken care of by the choppers and miners as they do their work. Cutting down trees and mining metal each require a tool (axe and pickaxe respectively) so only one person can work on those tasks at a time. Meanwhile, the train simply slowly moves down the track and the players need to make sure it never runs out of rails.

As the train progresses, things get a bit more difficult with resources becoming scarce or at least more difficult to obtain. Water can be crossed (for the train, or for resource gathering) by building bridges with wood, occasional mobs turn up that need to be fought off with tools, and special reward tokens can be obtained – typically by mining and building out to some obscure part of the board. In addition to just feeding the train, each game level presents a particular challenge (only one player may use the pickaxe, for example) which provides an additional reward at the end of the level.

The train keeps going until it meets up with the next station, when that “round” is scored and players are given the chance to upgrade their train by spending tokens earned from accomplishing challenges or seeking out special rewards. These upgrades don’t dramatically change the game but do make things easier for the harder levels. Upgrades include things like speeding up track production, larger resource capacity, and cars that give special abilities like providing player characters with a speedy “dash” option or lighting up the train better when driving through “dark” levels..  In this way, it approaches a rogue-like sort of development curve which slowly does add a dash of complexity.

Unrailed is a nice little cooperative game.  On the downside, there is very little depth to the game but this can be a plus if one is looking for a simpler game to play with one’s kids. It’s a little dry and simple for my own tastes but my preteens love it and its simplicity make it accessible even for younger kids.  Another chance to play games with my kids is always welcome, so the game gets a recommendation from me for anyone looking for a fun time playing on the Switch with young kids.  While it’s available in almost every platform, the Switch version is reviewed here.  The Switch is simply the best pick-up and play and the best multiplayer console around.  Unrailed takes advantage of the Switch’s strengths and is a nice co-op title for casual gaming.

Kid Factor:
Everything is pixelated, and it’s just a bunch of trains, woods, lakes, and hills. There are some “bad guy” mobs that occasionally need defeating but nothing troublesome. Reading isn’t even much of a requirement and the difficulty can be set pretty low for any level of gamer.

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