Steampunk fans may get the horn for this unusual yet unique puzzle title Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki from Pomeshkin Valentin Igorevich. Set in an alternative 70s Russia with nods to steampunk and actual Russian propaganda, just stylistically spruced up, it’s an on-rails puzzle game in a fascinating setting.
There isn’t a game that comes to mind that is comparable. A game that is literally on rails, you have to navigate this steampunk capsule on wheels transporting messages through a series of interconnected tracks that run through residential areas and industrial sectors.
Armed with only two commands – a dash and a charge, you must fire up any visible switches and components to shift a track in your favour, powering up a device, and reaching a new area, subsequently solving a challenging puzzle.
Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki Review
Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki is visually striking, and the slightly haunting soundtrack is a great companion, instilling intrigue and slight fear at what could be around the corner as the story unravels. But note that this isn’t a scary game or similar (despite the Halloween-like tones at times); it’s more to do with being in the unknown – discovering as you go along.
While the gameplay can be restrictive in terms of direction, the experience is compensated by the overall ambience and attention to detail. It’s like one of those ghost train rides at an amusement park; only your input is crucial, and it’s at your pace. That said, while discovery comes from exploration, Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki can be pretty frustrating with the camera angles.
As you have no control of the camera, you’ll find yourself in a chase-like cam, shifting as you scale a building or swing around some intricate mechanical device but without the autonomy to do anything. Because your only travel relies on the rails, if you run out of track, you’ll fall, respawning quite far away at times. Repeating the same puzzles can be a chore.
Off The Rails
There are no conventional pointers through the game – you have to find out everything yourself, but with only two buttons and moving left and right, the real challenges are the actual puzzles. Seeking out the instructions or sometimes wrestling the controls when your carriage goes either up or down a track is a frequent aspect of the game.
And while I’m getting the bad tastes out of my mouth, I have to say that playing this with a DualSense was fiddly. Dials were over sensitive and would change at the slightest tap, and the menu was mapped to circle (or the A button). Despite knowing this, I would inadvertently tap it here and there, pausing the game.
So yeah, the controls and camera angles in Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki are a bit off, and probably the worst of it. While we can’t base the whole game experience purely on presentation, it does absorb the negative stuff, and occasionally, I wanted the option to de-rail and do a quick fly-around of the stages.
Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki gameplay strength comes from the puzzles, though, and while it all looks pretty, you want some sort of game tucked away in there. These aren’t the sort of puzzles that will drive you mad, but you may find yourself pacing up and down and running through every possible option. When you do get it right and reverse engineer the answer, it makes sense how you would have gotten there.
But can I recommend Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki? Do you know what? Yes. It’s so quirky – both positive with its unique style of play and puzzles, but also the controls and tricky camera angles. The pros outweigh the cons, but regardless, you have to be prepared to exercise a little patience with the movement, irrespective that it’s a game on rails.
It’s a relatively short experience – depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles. In fairness, it’s surprising how many times I got stumped when only sporting a dash and charge attack. I really can’t fault the 3D work, and that’s worth experiencing. Is it something you’ll come back to? Perhaps, but again, it’s more likely because of the visuals and general vibe it gives off rather than the fun of repeat playing the puzzles or foolishly doing a Thelma and Louise because you didn’t see the end of the tracks.
Check it out.