Unrailed review: a different kind of party game

When most people hear the word ‘party’, they probably think of large gatherings: the type with gratuitous snacks, plenty of liquid intoxicants and a thrum of conversation. The kind of get together where you’d probably bust out a Jackbox game, Cards Against Humanity or have a rooftop soiree like in that 1-2-Switch commercial from a few years back.

But Unrailed is a party game built for more low-key affairs: the kind involving a few buddies and a reasonably sized bowl of tortilla chips, all of you sat round a dining room table, ready to partake in board or card games. It’s best played in the company of others, straddling the line between being a pick-up-and-play type of experience and one that has just enough complexity to keep things interesting and compelling.

The game is played in top-down manner, with some very fetching voxel art. You’re tasked with simply getting a slow but always moving locomotive to the next station by harvesting materials from the environment to build new train tracks and other pathways. You can only carry one tool at a time, so the major challenge of Unrailed is managing your time in such a way that you can gather the resources you need while offsetting things like bridges, random enemies and the train potentially catching on fire. Get good at it and you can do things like upgrade your train and make risky maneuvers to speed things up.

Unrailed builds its worlds randomly, meaning each run is unique. Even without considering the different biomes you can operate in, like deserts and tundras, there’s enough variety in level layouts to ensure it never gets tiresome. More to the point, Unrailed is a fantastically frantic cooperative experience: a trick that few games get right. In order to make good momentum you need to have constant conversation and the ability to switch jobs on the fly. The way the world moves as the train does leads to sticky situations that require very fast changes in planning, which tend to get everyone stressed, but excitedly so, as you try to win the day.

You could play Unrailed by yourself with a bot, but don’t bother – this game is meant to played with others, and I really mean that. The more people involved, the better it gets. My kids and I have been playing almost daily, forgoing a lot of other games in favour of tinkering with trains. In short, it’s a lot of fun.

In some ways it’s unfortunate that Unrailed had to release during such trying times, when social gatherings are but a distant memory, because it’s at its best when played in the company of others. But then again, since I’m stuck at home with my family, we may as well have a blast playing a game together.

I don’t mind big parties every now and again (probably now more than ever for obvious reasons), but there’s nothing better than spending an afternoon with a handful of family members or friends. Especially if you had the wherewithal to download Unrailed.

Unrailed was developed by Indoor Astronaut, and it’s available on PC, Mac, PS4, and Switch. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Unrailed was provided by Renaissance PR. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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