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I never cease to be amazed by the sheer volume of puzzle apps in the App Store. Our craving for brain teasers, word games, and match sets must be insatiable. With so many apps, there's also a lot of repetition; so when a truly novel puzzle app comes our way, it's worth taking notice of. Trainyard, from independent developer Matt Rix, is such an app.
The basic concept of Trainyard is simple: route color coded trains from departure point to the correct destination by laying out track. Sometimes, every train must arrive at the same destination; other times, you will need to manage crossing paths and switch tracks to get each train where it needs to be. As things get more complicated, you will even have to combine trains or arrange for them to change color in order to complete the level.
It's a clever concept, simple to grasp but with a lot of variety. Trainyard is a little slow to ramp up, but once you get into it there's a lot of fun to be had. Emphasis on the slow ramp up; it’s some forty-odd levels before the tutorials end and you hit the really challenging stuff. But once the game hits its stride, it's a whole lot of fun trying to figure out how to route each train. I never found the puzzles too daunting or tedious; like any good casual puzzle app, it was enough to get me thinking, but not enough to wrack my brains.
Traianyard is, perhaps fittingly, the kind of game you'll want to pull out on the train (or waiting room, or standing in line for the next iPhone).
The game's design is positively Spartan: black backgrounds, white line graphics with color only where it needs to be, and sound effects that barely register. These elements of the game don't exactly wow, but neither do they get in the way. It's the game play that carries this title along, and in that job it’s hindered only by its finer touch controls—the game isn’t quite as responsive as it could be, especially if you’ve got bigger fingers like mine. You might find track-laying to be somewhat finicky.
Still, you'll want to play, at least until you finish the offered puzzles. The designer has tried to build in replayability by means of a website where you can share your solutions with others and compete for the "best" solution. Since solved is solved in Trainyard, and there's no incentive for refining your solutions (say, bonus points for using less track or getting the trains there faster), I don't know how popular this particular feature will be.
All in all, Trainyard is an impressive first offering from its designer, with a neat new spin on the puzzle app. Puzzle fans should definitely check it out.