Unrailed is the name of the small debut project by Swiss indie developer Indoor Astronaut. It's developed by four former students of the ETH Zurich and was originally presented as Derailed, but that has since been renamed. But enough of that: We were allowed to play the game recently at an event hosted by publisher Daedalic, and we enjoyed it a lot despite some mishaps from the people on our team.
The basic premise of Unrailed is that we have to guide a train safely to the other side of the map. Sounds simple, right? The steam locomotive moves by itself at a steady pace and it's our responsibility to make sure that it doesn't get derailed or otherwise involved in some sort of crash. In addition to the construction and manual placement of the rails, we must smooth a path through forests and around mountains, and even over water if necessary. Besides that, it is very important to pay attention to the heat levels of our train, as the temperature of its incinerator increases constantly. And to top it all off, we have to deal with the other players - players who are constantly getting in our way...
The title is designed for friends who like a challenging local coop experience, which makes comparisons with Overcooked very obvious for more than one reason. Up to four players have to clear forests, dig for iron, and regularly douse the locomotive with buckets of water (or lava - don't ask us why). While dismantling the world we find ourselves useful resources which must be transported to the designated train carriage, where the material is processed into another section of track. Since our tools are limited and there are several important tasks at hand, it will be essential to keep track of the other players and see how they're managing their own responsibilities.
The visual style is easy to read and should provide clarity even in the heat of the moment. We see the action play out from an isometric perspective and this overview is important so players can identify possible routes early on during the stage. Some mountains, for example, can't be removed and therefore must be bypassed accordingly, which is why players need to try and recognise the best path as soon as possible. In addition, many of the forests and ore deposits are not resource-rich enough to provide our endeavour with sufficient quantities of raw materials. In order for us to pull through, the group must be coordinated.
In its current state Unrailed offers quite the challenge, and just coordinating the team alone can prove quite the handful if you ask us... In addition to several different biomes (which only differ visually so far), the world is populated by peculiar inhabitants and strange challenges. This may mean a herd of cows blocking the tracks, or a bouncing lava ball lighting up our locomotive. Some creatures even make us drop the items we're currently carrying, or invert the controls for a short period of time.
Since Indoor Astronaut hasn't had oodles of time to balance things, Unrailed is a very short-lived experience right now. The speed of the train depends on the number of players and checkpoints are only available in certain game modes. Similar to Overcooked, the big problem here lies within the precision of your inputs. In stressful situations, we're supposed to pick up and place objects precisely where they are needed, doing so while also checking on how the others are getting on at the same time. Until a player masters the admittedly simple game mechanics, they are the one most likely to hold the other players back...
This summer Unrailed will choo-choo its way into Early Access on Steam and the developer will explore new possibilities from there. Console ports, especially for the Nintendo Switch, are still on the table, but this young team wants to bring the PC version to completion first. Either way, we're curious to see more since it shares the same basic ingredients as the delicious Overcooked, a caper that led to quite the craving for co-op.
For more about the games we saw during Daedalic Days, head this way.