I'm a simple person — I like bright colors and cute aesthetics, and I think trains are neat. So while playing Railways, it felt like the devs made it exclusively for me. That's not true of course, as evidenced by the 27 (and counting) versions of Ticket to Ride, so I'm hopeful that other folks will be as charmed by Railways as I am. It also happens to be a finalist in Google Play's Indie Games Fest this year, and I'll be adding it to our list of best Android games for sure.
Beautifully designed, well-executed, and a ton of fun, Railways puts you in control of colored sets of trains tasked with picking up passengers. Labeled a sim game but playing out almost like a puzzle game at times, Railways has a simple goal for each level: pick up a full load of matching colored passengers for each of your trains within a time limit. Trains run on looped sets of tracks but can be tapped to stop for a short time or dragged to other tracks to change their trajectory.
What may sound like a simple concept plays out as elegant and surprisingly addictive in practice. Your trains remain in constant motion, so you must quickly plan routes to pick up groups of passengers that suddenly appear all over the track, redirect around environmental blocks to plan routes around, and race against the clock to get those train cars packed to the max. Behind the cartoonish simplicity, there's strategic nuance and challenges bordering on chaos.
Beautifully designed and a ton of fun, Railways puts you in control of colored trains picking up matching colored passengers.
A few simple rules further complicate your sprint to the goal. If you shift a train to another track that intersects a group of passengers, you run them right over. Now, running over passengers doesn't actually result in a game over, nor does it even negatively impact your score; it just means that you've removed a few precious passengers from the pool for a given color, meaning that color's train is now falling behind and has a lower chance of filling up before time runs out. You can actually still complete a level without having collected the maximum amount of passengers, but you won't get the full 3-star rating at the end.
I was fascinated to learn that actual train conductors designed Railways' levels, and you can see how much fun they had developing this game. Things start to get really wild later down the line, as level designs become more and more complex and the margin for error shrinks. Trains can crash into each other if you're not careful, which will result in a game over and level restart. Navigating the trains on crisscrossing lines is messy in the best way.
There's not much more to say about this gorgeous minimalistic experience, other than that it is incredibly well-produced and feels great to play. I snagged Railways on sale for a meager 99 cents, but even at full price, it's only $1.99. So please consider picking up this lovely little indie game.