How Trainyard Works

It's addictive -- the Trainyard.
It's addictive -- the Trainyard.

Canadian gaming developer Matt Rix was riding a commuter train to work one morning when a light bulb turned on in his head. What if he created a game that transformed a railroad into a grid-based logic puzzle? The object of the game would be to create a route to guide multi-hued trains toward their destinations. Rix had never written an iPhone game, but he wanted to do so. He spent a year and a half elaborating upon his initial notebook sketch and finally completed Trainyard in 2010 while he was on leave taking care of his then-newborn son Toren [source: Rix].

Since its release in 2010, Trainyard, an app available on the iPhone and the iPad, has developed a cult following. Both puzzle-solving aficionados, and smartphone and tablet gamers, are drawn to its colorful interface and easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master quality. Trainyard's basic concept -- to guide trains from their starting points to the proper destination stations by drawing tracks and matching colors -- is beguilingly easy to grasp. Indeed, the game's beginning levels are so easy that even young children can play. But successive levels steadily ramp up the complexity and difficulty of the game, forcing players to create more intricate routes and color combinations. "One of the best parts of the game is the way the learning curve is set," writes game reviewer Jonathan Liu. "It just builds and builds" [source: Liu].

Another part of Trainyard's appeal to game geeks is that, at the higher levels, the ingeniously designed puzzles require a brain-stretching amount of trial-and-error track-laying and switching. Beyond that, the puzzles ultimately turn out to have multiple solutions -- though the most elegant answer, i.e. the one involving the least amount of track, is the sweet spot for which every aficionado strives. Finally, Trainyard is not just a game, but a community of sorts, as well. The app allows players to upload their solutions to the Trainyard Web site and then compare them to what their counterparts down the street or on the other side of the world have come up with [source: Liu].

If anything, Trainyard is sure to make a commotion in your cranium. Learn more about how to play on the next page.