I’m a skeptic by nature. Quote a fact to me, and rather than blindly accept it, I’ll always respond with, “Says who?” So when I saw the App Store description for Trainyard Express calling their app “The best puzzle game on the App Store,” I felt compelled to check it out for myself. After all, it’s Friday…and that means it’s time to have some fun and games.
What is it and what does it do
Trainyard Express is a puzzle game for iOS. Express is the “lite” free version of the game, with the full paid version (called simply “Trainyard”) having more levels and functionality.
- Beautifully designed game with challenging levels
- No timer, no scoring: just contemplative puzzle completion
- Stuck on a puzzle? There are over 1.2 MILLION player submitted solutions at http://trainyard.ca/solutions
- Can’t make your own puzzles (you need the full version of the game to do that)
- Really exhaustive tutorial that goes on and on and on
- Game starts off too simple (though it does eventually get monstrously hard!)
- Mobile gamers who thrive on points and achievements will find the lack of timers and scores in this game disappointing
Our very own Locutus reviewed Trainyard for Android last year, and had some high praise indeed. “Trainyard is probably my favorite Android game–ever,” Locutus wrote about the Android version of the game.  “It’s really an awesome game. If you have a phone or tablet, you definitely need to download this.”
So, how does the iPhone version of the game stand up, several updates later? Pretty well, as long as you’re the patient type. To get the most out of Trainyard Express, you really do need to go through the tutorial: there are so many ins and outs to this simple game that the tutorial really is a requirement.
Unfortunately, that tutorial is painfully long. It’s all good information, mind, but you can’t skip parts of it, or speed up the slow-as-molasses animations that accompany each example. If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand reading the instructions before playing a board game, the tutorial in Trainyard Express might make you crazy.
That being said, once you’re through the tutorial and the early puzzles, the rest of the game is fiendishly tricky, and a real challenge for even the most experienced puzzle-head. Your job is simple: get each train to a goal station. Red trains go to red stations, blue trains go to blue stations, etc. But things get tricky once you add in obstacles, shifting tracks, and all kinds of other challenges.
The puzzles are great, though I do wish that the app had a more responsive touchscreen. I found myself frequently having to “redraw” lines that I had drawn correctly before, simply because the game was misinterpreting the path of my finger. Thankfully, erasing your lines is really simple.
Conclusion and download link
Trainyard Express is a real Russian novel of a game: it takes forever to through the exposition and into the meat of the thing…but if you can be patient, you’ll find that Trainyard Express is worth delving into. Is it “the best puzzle game on the App Store?” I’m not sure about that… but it’s definitely up there.
Version reviewed: 1.66
Requires iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, iOS version 3.0 or later
Download size: 8.1 MB