Cosmic Express is an interesting take on the puzzle genre, created by Alan Hazelden, released just over a week ago. Set in space, the player must guide various species of martians to their allotted slots on each level. As the game progresses the train gains more passenger space (not a pun), and more martian species are added, making for a quickly challenging experience. I am not a fan of the puzzle genre, but this game brings something different to the table for me. Cosmic Express’ mechanics are fairly simple to grasp, yet this game will have you pondering your existence as you reach it’s later levels.
The control scheme of this game could not be simpler. You use your left-click on the mouse to place and remove tracks, space-bar to test out your track design, and “R” key to start the level over. I enjoyed Cosmic Express with nothing more than the track-pad on my laptop, something I cannot say about many other games. I would have never thought that a game that only utilizes 3 or so inputs could be so difficult, loosely comparable only to some of the newest “easy to play, hard to master” games coming out for smartphones (I would be truly excited to play this game on an iPad or similar device).
Something that really calls out to me in this game is how it shows you the ropes without holding your hand. If you don’t learn how the game’s rules work, you will not be able to proceed; this isn’t one of those games that lets you skip over levels, and there is no partial completion of levels. Its all or nothing (since there is an option to open all the levels and simply explore what lies ahead, so you can either play the way its meant to be played or start with everything unlocked). This brings a sense of accomplishment when you finally break through that level you’ve been working so hard on. The player must quickly learn how things work, and the only pop-up you’ll ever see is a small dialogue box showing you how to lay down tracks. How can you proceed knowing so little about the game’s mechanics? The game feeds you it’s world in small portions, first letting you learn how the tracks work, then how the transportation works. Once you know how the train reacts with the martians you are thrown a curve ball: new martians that interact in different ways with the train. There is also an interesting system where you can solve certain puzzles in different ways to unlock new areas (you will have to link the train to two separate stations). The game seems to look all the same at a distance, but it has a surprising amount of content and variety.
The game’s visuals were created by Typhaine Uro (AKA Tyu), best known for her work through Klondike (not the ice cream). The martians are cute, and just about everything else in the game holds up to that standard. I thoroughly enjoyed the visuals this game provided, the best way I can describe the art style is low-poly done right. Along with the adorable and simple art style came a simple yet effective set of sound effects and ambient music. Every sound you hear feels right, and the sound that plays when you succeed through each level is particularly pleasant (perhaps from the satisfaction of figuring out a difficult puzzle).
From someone who doesn’t usually enjoy puzzle games, Cosmic Express is a fun yet challenging game, which also features cute visuals and good sound design. I enjoyed each seemingly simple yet devilishly complex level I could get myself into, and was thankful for the easier stages which showed me the ropes without telling me how to play.
While I don’t believe this game is very re-playable (in the sense of starting from the beginning again) it has enough content to jump that hurdle, and is well worth your hard-earned dollars ($9.99 USD on Steam).
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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