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Cosmic Express (PC) artwork

Cosmic Express (PC) review

"“Cosmic” or “cosmical,” that is the question. "

Cosmic express is the latest commercial puzzle labour by developer draknek, who owes his renown to previous games of the same genre, one or two published as freeware and his very noteworthy -- and undeservedly poorly selling -- Sokobond.

Levels are set in space colony surroundings populated with passengers and train stops; there are several qualities of passengers and a specific stop for each -- the sole whereat they intend to get off. The player designs railways that must connect the starting and exit point (usually unique. Multiple for levels open to multiple solutions) of each single-screen level whilst answering the needs of the passenger population, not least the legitimate desire not to take seats previously occupied by singularly sticky riders.

The first question to spring to my mind was why is the Android and iOS game’s price tag half the computer version’s. Adding a touch of irony to unfairness, this is one of the uncommon cases where control by touch outperforms the keyboard-mouse pair and gamepads. Furthermore, level size and design, and the graphics, all fit a portable gaming device better than a standard computer display or television.
In and of itself, this carries no “this is a second-class game” implied meaning; masterpieces have been designed specifically for handheld systems, and not a few of them would not be playable, or as well playable, on non-handheld ones.

Thereat I began playing. Unpleasantness thinned away. For awhile at least, it did.
The settings, menus and user interface are no less tidy and thought-out than previous experience of draknek’s games leads us to expect. He is one very detail-mindful indie developer and you soon become wonted to assume of his works technical flawlessness and effortless control. Sokobond is a case study as concerns the contribution intently planned controls, user interface and presentation can give to a game’s value, and in this regard Cosmic Express meets expectation.

I tried both the Windows and Android versions, and view it worth being pointed out how basically no permissions are asked by the mobile version.
In draknek’s work technical integrity goes together with moral integrity: even when he warns his followers about the joint effect of (what he imagines as) GamerGate and Trump’s election having the potential to sink mankind into ruin (if not all the other species and Earth with it), you know that, no matter what bread comes of it in the specific incident, the dough is honest.

The 8-bit trimetric graphics and single, continuous sound effect serving as background music are inoffensive. The character design is pleasant. Levels asking for more than a solution, a liberal progression policy borrowed from Sokobond allowing the selection of a handful of levels at any point in the game (also, the option to unlock all levels from the start is given, although its use is, correctly, implicitly discouraged), the fact that World 1’s 7th and 14th level are about as challenging as World 4’s or World 9’s 7th and 14th level and this means every type of puzzle (every world) stretches along the entire difficulty curve, the scrupulous way each stage adds a tweak and some difficulty pepper on to the preceding, all of this is what much can be said for the game, and what slows its drift towards the mire of boredom. For a while at least, it does.

Later, Cosmic Express surfaces as a series of tests of logic that, given the form of a video game, does not do or offer any thing it could not have done and offered in printed format. The graphics and sound contribution to the experience is, as noted, limited to not offend.
The only motivation to advance is a bare will to get over all the puzzles. It is a lengthy school exam that you would not take on for any purpose but to find out the measure of your analytical intelligence.
Discussing its merit as an IQ test’s logic section is beyond the point here given it is a game we are reviewing.
If we did, the conclusion would be reached quickly that even in that light it be wanting on many, or all, counts.
It is true that in the face of all of this I carried on till the end.
But then, I am one who can like a long school-like examination.

The riddles have little variety, are piquancy-less and uninventive. Play is free of surprise and smiles.
This game is Sokobond’s negative image.
Its body is rolled in a blanket of aesthetic and logical indifference.
The vice of having no virtues is no little vice, if one bears in mind that, marketing neurolinguistic programming apart, reasons, good ones, need be there for a game to be purchased and played, and not for not skipping an imaginary duty to purchase and play.
draknek’s site tells how his Sokobond was “crafted with love and science”. “Love” is indeed the right word, that statement a truth; we now worry the making of that game dried every last drop of it out of him; the stock is as yet far from having been replenished.
For now, this last work brings two new words into usage: the verbs to train-brain and to train-bore.

Are Cosmic Express featurelessness and boredom cosmic, or cosmical? That’s the only question. I’d leave it unsettled and go play Mirror Isles and, after it, Sokobond.

cognitive challenge: 8/10
visuo-motor challenge: n.a.
rating: 5/10


bwv_639's avatar
Community review by bwv_639 (June 16, 2017)

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