Available On: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One
Taking a cue from the much-loved co-op series Overcooked, Unrailed is a zany co-op survival adventure in which a team of players hurry to mine resources and lay tracks to keep their unstoppable train from crashing. Unrailed lacks the visual charm of Overcooked but adds more dire stakes as the tracks stretch farther and farther.
Unrailed features three gameplay modes: quick, endless, and versus, though quick is just a one-level version of endless. In every mode we’re presented with a slice of flat world filled with forests, mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. The goal is simple: pick up the nearby pick and axe, harvest stone and wood, and bring them to the train to craft track pieces.
The train, specifically the crafting car, converts raw resources into track pieces, which we’ll need to start laying. Once the level starts, there are very few ways to stop the train until we successfully reach the next station, or we crash and burn.
The result is a wonderfully tense co-op experience that supports local and online multiplayer for up to four players. Players quickly organize themselves into important roles. I’ll start chopping through this forest. You can come up behind and gather the wood, while she fills up the bucket for the tank car when the train begins to overheat.
Despite the simple premise, the action remains compelling throughout endless mode as we unlock new biomes with unique challenges. The constant snowfall from the winter biome slows us down, forcing us to dash back and forth to clear paths. The volcanic biome requires stone bridges to cross rivers of lava.
We’re not alone in this world, as bandits will grab supplies left behind and hurl them off the map, cows will block our paths, and yetis will slam down when we’re nearby, making us drop our load. Every threat and hazard is designed to slow us down, as time is the biggest enemy in Unrailed.
To help combat these threats, we can earn bolts by reaching stations and completing bonus objectives, such as only allowing one player to chop wood. Bolts can be redeemed between missions to add new cars to our train, and upgrade existing train cars. A compass train car will point the way to the next station, letting us plan ahead, while a torch car will light the way when night falls.
Our favorite was the ghost car, adding an incorporeal element to our train that allowed us to pass through, avoiding embarrassing situations where we became stuck as our train surged ever-forward.
Unrailed also features a versus mode, including split-screen, where two players (or two teams of two) compete to reach the next station in the exact same map. I wish versus included the train upgrades and compelling length of endless mode. Instead it’s more of a competitive mini-game compared to the main course.
The pixel art is nice, but unlockable skins barely make a difference as the characters are so tiny. You can also play Unrailed solo. It’s not a bad experience thanks to the very efficient AI companion. By pulling up a command wheel, it’s easy to direct them to perform all the necessary tasks, such as chopping wood, restocking the train, or filling the bucket. But make no mistake: this is a game built specifically for co-op multiplayer.
Unrailed has not been rated by the ESRB. The core gameplay is harvesting resources and building tracks on a flat, blocky world. There’s nothing objectionable, and the simple two-button controls are easy to understand. However, the focus on time and efficiency, even on the easiest difficulty, can make the gameplay challenging for younger kids.
Unrailed can be a fun solo game for those who enjoy time-based puzzles, but it truly shines in local multiplayer. Groups of friends can yell at each other when the train catches fire, the miner needs a bridge over water, and has anyone seen the axe? It’s not quite this year’s Overcooked, but it comes close.