Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2012
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Trainyard

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Stump students with innovative train-routing puzzler

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3–7
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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4 images

Pros: Real-world concepts are presented along with nicely integrated tutorials.

Cons: Fine motor requirements are sometimes too tricky, and some gameplay concepts take a while to grasp.

Bottom Line: Superb combination of logic, real-world learning, and train play.

Trainyard is a train routing puzzle game that's easy to learn but hard to master. The goal: Get the color-coded trains from their outlets to their correct stations. As the game progresses, kids encounter new obstacles and techniques coupled with effective tutorials that pop up (usually just when needed) during play.

Kids create and test track configurations on a grid background until they find one that works. Trains run from outlet stations to goal stations at variable and easily controlled speeds. If the trains crash, players have to go "Back to the drawing board!" Double-tap to switch connections, and use erase mode to get rid of unwanted track. Sometimes kids have to send their trains on an indirect path to merge or cross over at just the right time; focus and concentration can be key.

 

Real railway concepts like switching tracks, train car merging, crossovers, and collisions are covered here. Geometrical concepts such as symmetry and asymmetry, timing (based on counting squares), and color mixing make for a concept-packed experience. Kids earn stars for each puzzle completed, keeping them motivated. Levels named after Canadian provinces provide a bit of geography icing on the top. Very cool accessibility bonus: Color-blind players can label trains with letters. About 150 levels ramp up slowly, but the harder challenges can stump even puzzle-loving adults.

Standouts: The graphics are clean and attractive, and the interface is well-designed without a lot of distractions. Room for improvement: The game keeps scores for two players, though it would be nice to be able to change profile names.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Trainyard is an innovative puzzle game with clean, attractive graphics and a well-designed interface. The game is simple enough that a young child could play the easier levels, but the more advanced levels will challenge puzzle-loving adults.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids can learn real railway concepts like switching track, train car merging, crossovers, and collisions. Geometrical concepts like symmetry and asymmetry, timing and color mixing make for a concept-packed experience.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Top-notch tutorials walk kids through each skill. The app does require a high level of fine motor skills, which may exclude some younger kids. The game can be adapted for color-blind players. Players can opt in to Apple's Game Center.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Gary S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Webster City Middle School
Webster City, United States
Trainyard delivers the goods with simple, interactive visuals
Trainyard is a good tool for students to work on logical, sequential thinking skills. It starts simply and builds logically, step-by-step. Tutorials accompany each level up, making learning the current concept easy. Accomplishing the conceptual goal gets more challenging with each level. The user works their way through 14 levels named for UK cities. Within each level, progressively harder screens advance you to the next city. By the time the user gets to the middle of the challenge cities, the thinking is starting to get somewhat advanced. The tutorials are excellent, doing a great job of guiding the user through the challenges. I had no trouble understanding the concepts and enjoyed working with this app. The elegant simplicity of the design lends itself to playability. Considering the way students like social learning some would ask for a multi-player version; I think it would muddy the workings of the app and take away the simplicity of play.
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