Trains, eh? Can't live with 'em, can't get to work without 'em. We're taking a look at Trainyard, an iPhone game that will have you laying tracks and shunting trains, and no doubt swearing in frustrated rage too. All aboard!
Trainyard is a puzzle game developed specifically for the iPhone. It's currently priced at £1.79, although there's a free companion game, Trainyard Express, on offer too. The premise is simple. Trainyard's playing field comprises a grid with colour-coded sheds dotted around. Your goal is to guide trains from one coloured shed to another by connecting them with train track.
You succeed by navigating trains into the correctly coloured sheds, which initially is easy enough. But soon the game requires you to plan the routes of your various coloured trains way ahead, and lay down the right pathways to ensure they don't collide before reaching their goal.
Once the track is laid to your satisfaction, you hit the 'start the trains' button to set everything in motion. If the trains do crash or if they wind up at a shed of the wrong colour, you'll have to go back to the drawing board. When you eventually succeed, it's full steam ahead to the next challenge. Woo-woo!
As the puzzles become increasingly complex, you'll be introduced to the art of combining differently coloured trains, to make a single train of a new colour. For example, if there's a shed that requires a purple train, you'll have to sneakily engineer red and blue trains to merge on the tracks, making one purple train.
From then on, things become increasingly complex, and soon you'll be dealing with complicated issues like point-switching.
Full steam ahead
There are around 150 puzzles on offer. While figuring out what to do can be a little baffling at first, there's an extremely smooth difficulty curve, so you'll never feel as though you've been thrown in at the deep end. Then, when you're elbow-deep in track, with dozens of trains scurrying around your fingertips, you'll suddenly realise that you've attained a Fat Controller-like understanding of rail organisation.
Besting Trainyard will require the patience of a thousand saints, with some puzzles so fiendish they'll keep you baffled for days on end. You'll have to invest plenty of time, but finding the solution always feels incredibly rewarding. The finest thing about Trainyard is that it delivers a gaming thrill without ever hurrying or penalising you.
There are no points or high scores to speak of, and there's no punishment for crashing the trains. Instead, you'll view solving the puzzles as a learning process. It's almost impossible to find the right solution on your first go, so you'll find yourself repeatedly starting the trains, studying what works and what doesn't in minute detail, and then making a few tiny alterations.
The game always feels as though it's trying to help you, and fits a comprehensive set of tools for managing your track into only a few buttons. There's an undo button that lets you skip backwards through your previous moves, even if your previous move was to erase everything by mistake. There's also a sliding bar to control the speed of the trains, so you can hurtle them around the track, or set them off at a more ponderous pace, which is useful if you need to analyse what's going down in a particular section.
Visually, Trainyard is a very attractive little game, with bright primary colours, smoothly drawn icons and in-game objects, and the occasional colourful burst when your trains hit the right shed. The sound effects also deserve a mention -- they're excellent, making the arduous task of laying bucketloads of track a pleasant experience for your ears.
When you finally nail a puzzle, you'll want to brag. Brilliantly, you can easily share your final layout on Facebook and Twitter. The app can export your solution and post it as a Flash video on your wall, and on the Trainyard solutions Web page, where you can view other users' solutions to puzzles.
Trainyard requires a great deal of patience, but, if you're willing to put in the time to get to grips with the controls and the slow, methodical pace of the gameplay, it's one of the most enjoyable, stimulating and satisfying iPhone games around.
Download Trainyard (iTunes link): £1.79
Download Trainyard Express (iTunes link): Free
Edited by Jason Jenkins