Review: RGB Express

By Kelsey Rinella 13 Oct 2014 0
Would it be in bad taste to make puns during the funeral? Because I would have a hard time resisting "Today, we are all blue." In later levels, hitting "play" on my first draft usually meant sending two poor truck drivers into a tragic head-on collision.

Driving. You only see other delivery trucks, so it must be late, but you're so amped that the world takes it color from a small box of crayons. Need to swing by the stash; they need red tops across town. Have to be careful not to circle around or trace the path of the fella bringing the green pills to that rich kid's party, though--boss don't want too much exposure in case of a stakeout somewhere. He's getting paranoid, moving his drivers to a new city every ten jobs. Never get to learn the layout; feels like civil engineer gremlins lay out new roads every morning.

The un-themes and family-friendly attire of many puzzle games drive me to creative interpretation. RGB Express is the polar opposite of noir, a simple deliver-the-packages puzzler with a difficulty curve reminiscent of the world's longest bunny slope. It instantly attracted my children to perch on my shoulders like a five- and six-year-old Hugin and Munin excitedly shouting what we'll euphemistically call "wisdom". It's a wonderfully inviting experience, and for a long time offers only rare challenges for a disciplined mind. Eventually, though, I was tired and distracted, and chose Ascension over RGB--that was when I realized it had gotten hard.

Of course, in this level, I'm driving the white truck, so of course I don't see the problem. Such a happy, colorful world. Sucks all the punch out of quips about how the white truck has more privileges than any of the other trucks.

RGB Express requires you to route colored trucks to matching crates and then drop them off at matching buildings. You can cross paths, but only at corners. The game later adds a white truck which matches every color, drawbridges you can open or close, and the ability to drop a crate for later pick-up, but there are a lot of puzzles with the basics. Most of the time, in the early puzzles, you plot an efficient course for one truck, and then you figure out how to accommodate it pretty easily. Then that doesn't work, and you notice something--maybe it's that you can never drive though a three-way intersection that has a crate off one branch without getting that crate. Very gradually, you accumulate a stable of such deductions which help with later levels.

That's possibly the most distinctive element of these puzzles--very rarely did I feel as though I had gradually absorbed something. RGB Express wants you to explicitly acknowledge your mistakes and their solutions, not unlike some spouses. In the later levels, playing feels like working on a chess problem, exploring an expanding but non-uniform decision tree. Learning about the shape of that tree is the game's greatest gift to players, and can be quite satisfying.

Of course, if you are driving in Washington, you will curse anyway. Note: this app is not recommended for learning geography. If you expect driving in Washington to be this straightforward, you will curse.

Chess problems, though, are unforgiving. Even when difficult, RGB offers five hints (more available for purchase, of course) which are sufficiently helpful that the hint for a level makes it dramatically easier without quite handing you the solution. Furthermore, each level gives you coins you use to buy access to new cities, but you get coins substantially faster than you need them, so skipping a level now and again won't prevent you from seeing the full game. Like chess problems, I often found that I could get unstuck by simply putting the game down and returning to it later, so the hint system never seemed abusive.

There's a lot of content to play through before the average Pocket Tactics reader will find RGB Express offers much challenge. Even early on, it's a modest pleasure to play, but for a player who enjoys looking ahead several moves and mentally charting contingencies, the later levels are highly stimulating. Though there's quite a bit of content to the game as it is, though, I can't help hoping Finnish studio Bad Crane release an update at some point. I'd really like a set of Baltimore levels so I could imagine a crossover with The Wire.

I wasn't very smart as a child. I always loved the hidden picture pages in Highlights as a kid.

RGB Express was played on an iPad Air for this review.

Review: RGB Express

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