Unrailed!

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Unrailed! Game Poster Image
Co-op time management game encourages teamwork.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players are encouraged to cooperate and communicate with each other in order to achieve success. Both strategic planning and fast thinking are rewarded.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters simply gather resources and build track to keep a train moving safely. Players can make their characters express emotions such as anger or happiness through simple emojis.

Ease of Play

The controls and objectives are very simple, and a tutorial provides a bit of practice before jumping into a live game with others. Success depends on the difficulty selected and the experience and skill of the people playing.

Violence & Scariness

Players can attack stick figures with an axe to break them into little blocks and make them disappear.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unrailed! is a cooperative time management game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game tasks players to harvest nearby resources in order to build tracks and keep a slow moving train from derailing. Play encourages teamwork and communication (through simple emojis or, optionally, Discord) as players work together to chop down trees, mine metal, build tracks and bridges, and put out fires that start on train cars. Strategy and planning pay off, but so does quick, calm thinking when things become hectic. It's very easy to learn to play, but success on harder difficulties requires practice and skill.

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What's it about?

UNRAILED! makes a game out of finishing a railway track for a train that's already on its way to the station. Players work together to hurriedly construct track segments by using an axe to chop down trees for wood and a pick to break rocks into metal ore. These resources must be taken to the moving train, which has automated machinery that transforms them into track segments. But this process heats up the train, causing production rail cars to catch fire and stop doing their job (but without stopping the train), so players will occasionally need to abandon their harvesting and building activities to fetch water to put out the flames. Other obstacles include wild animals that get in the way and slow down player movement, and bodies of water that can only be crossed by building wooden bridges upon which track can then be laid. To succeed, players must plan out a smart route, but also be ready to act fast when conditions change. Communication and teamwork also help by ensuring everyone is working on important tasks and not doubling up others' efforts. While the game's meant to be played cooperatively (online or locally), it can also be played solo with the help of an AI bot to whom simple commands can be given.

Is it any good?

If you're looking for a game that won't break the bank, is easy to learn, quick to play, and fosters friendly social interactions between players, this will probably do the trick. Unrailed! has refreshingly welcoming presentation and personality. A cleverly designed menu and lobby system sees players moving their cute, blocky characters around the screen to modify settings and make selections. Once you begin playing, you'll be dropped into a colorful, randomly generated, Minecraft-like environment that quickly and efficiently relays all the visual information players need to get started, including where the train needs to go, what can be mined and harvested, and what's going to prove problematic, getting in the way of player movement and the track's construction. It's a delightfully simple design that most players will intuitively understand in moments, but which also has nuances that can take hours to master.

The best way to play is with others -- ideally a group of friends in the same room, so you can use more than just emojis to quickly communicate what needs doing. (Playing alone with a computer-controlled bot is a good way to get the hang of things without any social pressure, but there's only so much your AI helper can do.) Tasks may be simple to understand and execute, but coordination among team members is absolutely vital. The downside of this simplicity is that parts of the game grow a little tedious after a while. Randomly generated levels go some way towards keeping things fresh, and earning new characters and train upgrades provide something to strive toward, but in the end you're always doing the same thing -- and starting over from scratch when you fail. That said, Unrailed! isn't really meant to encourage deep strategy and epic play sessions. What it wants is to be simple, accessible, cooperative, and social, and in these modest ambitions, it succeeds splendidly.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Most games of Unrailed! typically take no more than a few minutes, so are you satisfied playing for just a little while at a time before moving on to other activities?

  • Do you enjoy working with others on tasks that might otherwise seem daunting? Is the sense of satisfaction any different than when you accomplish something on your own?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love teamwork

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