The free version of Trainyard was recently launched on Android, which was our queue to get up close and personal with the full version. The premise of laying down tracks so trains can get to their destinations seems easy enough, until you start factoring in switches for overlapping tracks, merging trains into single entities, and crossing them over one another to change their color.
Graphics and audio
Trainyard has a very distinctive style to it that sets it apart from many games and apps. The simple, matte, dark color scheme is punctuated by a sharp, distinctive font and a few bright highlights. The trains themselves cast subtle lighting effects when they interact with their surroundings.
As for audio, there’s really not much there - the odd sound effect kicks in when completing a level or game elements interact, but there’s nothing particularly mindblowing or even noteworthy about the audio. An easygoing train-themed soundtrack would be nice to have running in the background.
Gameplay and controls
Trainyard’s mechanic is excellent, and has a ton of depth. The goal is to get colored trains into boxes of the same color by laying down tracks from either endpoint. Each square on the grid can have two tracks overlapping at angles, but every time a train runs over that square, the one that’s on top switches. If timed right, multiple trains can merge into single ones, or if new colors need to be generated, trains can be guided to run over one another.
Things can get particularly complicated when levels have custom squares that paint over trains, split them up, or simply block construction. So what do you do after you’ve blasted through the hundreds of puzzles? Upload your original solutions to the site and compare to what others have come up with, for one. You can also try your hand at Expert mode, which counts how many tracks you drop down, and awards extra stars for efficiency. Unfortunately, there’s no level editor in the full version, as on iOS. That could add even more replay value, though there’s plenty to chew through as is.
Tracks need to be laid down slowly, as quick swipes will often skip squares or make them turn around in unintended directions. It can be a bit fiddly getting everything placed as intended, especially on a small screen, but it becomes less of an issue the longer you play. Subtle touches like shaking the phone to clear all tracks add a nice change of pace to a function that would otherwise just be a boring ol’ button (though there's a button to wipe tracks as well). For some reason, the game will occasionally recognize a shake as soon as I start a level, but beyond that, I haven’t had any stability issues with Trainyard.
- Elegant, simple UI
- Addictive, challenging gameplay
- Still missing level editor
Trainyard is a classic mobile puzzle game, and now that there’s a free version available to try out before shelling out $0.99 for the paid version, there’s even less stopping you from downloading it. The graphics are simple and elegant, and the gameplay can leave rivet you for unhealthy periods of time. Puzzle fans and casual gamers alike should at the very least download Trainyard Express.