On the Cosmic Express, there’s a jolly hostess, serving – OH GOD WHY ARE YOU PURPLE AND MADE OUT OF SLIME?!
Did you know aliens take the train to get from one star constellation to another? And that each constellation is made up of small bubbles that the aliens live in? I didn’t know that. Thankfully Cosmic Express has come along to educate me! It’s a video game about delivering aliens to their houses by train before leaving to transport more extra-terrestrials. And it’s pretty to boot.
Each level begins with your train entering an area containing aliens and homes. Your job is to create a track that connects aliens to a home (it doesn’t matter which; aliens aren’t about ownership) before guiding your locomotive to the exit. It seems so simple until you realise you can only transport one alien at a time (at first) and that the tracks can’t cross. It hits the perfect mark for a puzzle game by being a very simple premise that becomes rather challenging once it starts to introduce different rules. Rules such as aliens having to go to the correct coloured homes, or creatures that slime the train meaning only aliens of that type can subsequently be picked up. Even the cunning placement of a shrub can completely scupper your plans.
These instructions aren’t given to you verbally or via text, instead having you work it out by playing through levels. Early levels provide you with a couple of visual hints about how to construct your train line (you click and drag your mouse pointer) and set your train off (you click on a button!) and the rest is up to you. Some levels seem simple until you realise that you can’t deliver orange aliens to purple houses, or that trying to pick up two passengers at once results in neither getting into the train. The whole ideal of “show-don’t-tell” works very well here, and you regularly get satisfying “Aha!” moments whilst playing.
Levels are divided into constellations, each of which brings with it new rules. Levels can be completed in different orders, with different routes from one stage to another being available. Whilst it doesn’t change much, I did like having the option to try a different level if one was proving too challenging at the time. It also allows you early access to constellations that you may not be able to get to yet by completing levels in order.
There are also levels that aren’t required to progress as additional challenges (which can be very difficult) and some with more than one exit that open up different levels depending on which one is taken. This is nice as it gives different ways to play through the game, but also different approaches to completing levels. I would have liked to have seen more levels like this in the game rather than the handful that are there.
The art style is very nice, with bright colours highlighting points of interest in the stages. The aliens are very well animated too, giving them plenty of character (although I would have liked more varieties of alien). I particularly liked their idle animations when waiting for a train to arrive and the little hops they make when getting into it. The sounds are nice as well with the game sporting a relaxing soundtrack and suitable beeps and bloops adding a nice atmosphere. I did find the sound rather quiet on my computer however, and had to turn the speakers up to maximum to hear it clearly, but this doesn’t prevent you from playing or enjoying the game.
It should be noted that this is also a mobile game designed for touch controls. I played this using a mouse and found it controlled very well, but it can see it working equally as well with touch controls due to the simple nature of the game’s mechanics. You could play either quite happily, and I recommend you do! Cosmic Express is good fun and quite the brain teaser at times. Some stages are simple but they quickly give way to more challenging ones that will seriously tax the grey matter. It’ll give you some serious brain training. See what I did there? No? I’ll see myself out…