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For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

The little game that could

Product: Trainyard | Developer: Matt Rix | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.16
Trainyard iPhone, thumbnail 1
Who knew that so many people would be interested in public transport logistics?

Thanks to the success of Flight Control, the iPhone and iPod touch are chock full of games that ask you to help people to their destinations.

The trouble is, all these games play in much the same way. Guide some aircraft to the appropriate runway, steer these boats to that harbour – it’s all become as monotonous as the jobs being simulated.

Fortunately, Trainyard is here with a new form of transport to shunt around, and it’s not playing by any of the old rules.

Train of thought

While you are ostensibly guiding trains to stations by drawing out routes with your finger, the familiarity ends there. Trainyard isn’t a casual multitasker - it’s a brain-taxing puzzler. An excellent one, at that.

Each puzzle is presented as a simple grid populated by colour-coded train yards and stations. It’s as if you were sat in an old, dusty control room using vintage electronic equipment to monitor a sprawling public transport system.

Your goal is to sketch out tracks in order to guide each train to a station of the corresponding colour: the red train to the red station, blue to blue, and so on.

Things are complicated somewhat when you have to merge multiple trains (timing it so that they meet on a single section of track), cross-over without crashing, or mix certain colours.

Handles like it’s on rails

This colour-mixing element is, like everything else in Trainyard, deceptively simple. You need to merge certain coloured trains in order to form a new colour – combining blue and yellow to enter a green station, for example.

In order to carry out such tasks, you need to fully understand mechanics such as junction changes and train priority. Fortunately, developer Matt Rix has implemented a couple of excellent features to help you out.

There’s an excellent tutorial, for a start, which spells out each new element in a concise manner. Also, you can adjust the speed of the trains at any time, which is very handy in trickier levels when you need to slow things down to understand exactly where your solution is failing.

On track for greatness

And fail you will. The puzzles increase in complexity as you progress through a generous spread of 150 levels. You often need to make minor adjustments in order to get things working correctly, which may put you off if you're used to the fast pace of games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.

Nonetheless, Trainyard makes it as painless as possible to apply such modifications, allowing you to erase individual track elements or to wipe the slate clean and start again from scratch.

You can also correct yourself simply by drawing a new piece of track and then going over it again, which isolates any excess track pieces automatically.

Every attempt has been made in Trainyard to help you enjoy its unique charms (there’s even a provision for the colour-blind), making it easy to love as a result. Anyone with a modicum of patience and a love of ingenious puzzle design would be well advised to get on board.
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 27 October 2010
Trainyard is a quietly beguiling puzzler with an excellent tutorial and a generous supply of levels
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