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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

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Railroad Tycoon 3 mini-game

A-choo-ly really good. (See what we did.)

Publishers take note. On Friday mornings, we respond very positively to charming top-down, web-based puzzle games. It gets us to write about your proper games. You know, the ones you sell to try and make money. Release more innocent little freebie distractions like this (or release entire games for free like this) and even the most tedious, unfulfilling titles will probably catch our attention. (And don't worry too much about using good games to market poor ones, because you've been doing that for years!)

That's not to say Railroad Tycoon 3 is "tedious" or "unfulfilling". As you may know, it's due out on October 31st, and brings a fully realised 3D world to the series, capturing every last detail whether you're peering down from the stratosphere or tinkering with the benches on Platform 3. Very much a rags-to-riches game at heart, developer PopTop has also crafted 25 scenarios in which players must recreate particular feats of railroad design, using authentic locomotives from throughout history.

However before we get to that (which we'll do closer to the game's release), we're bound to tell you about the subject of our excitement this morning: the Railroad Tycoon 3 mini-game, available here in downloadable (900KB) and web-based form. What's it about? Quite simply, it's a top-down grid-based game where you have to complete a path from tunnel exit to station using a selection of track pieces. However you're only given three track pieces at any one time, and rarely do they match up to what you need, forcing you to plan ahead, dump useless pieces in odd spaces and destroy up-to-three obstructions per level with your quota of bombs. It still wouldn't be all that difficult without a time limit though, but, as you'll see, the train starts whether you're done or not, forcing you to try and finish your track while it's chugging its way round pointless time-wasting figures of eight.

There are several levels, it won't take you more than 10 minutes to finish, and the music will have your head bopping (and can be muted, thankfully). If the Big Game's soundtrack is along these lines (we're promised blues, bluegrass and Americana musicians) then maybe we'll keep that playing too. Who knows?