Developed by the team formerly known as Press Play (makers of the Max & The Magic Marker games and Kalimba), Trailmakers (itself formerly known as Pioneers) is yet another of those things. In fact, it's two of them, blending the survival sandbox and physics tinker-toolset subgenres.
Flashbulb hope to offer a pleasing blend of open-world exploration and creative problem solving using whatever nuts, bolts and conveniently cuboid construction blocks you can gather, and the fruits of their labor will be available to play - albeit as a work-in-progress - this Wednesday, January 31st.
At the heart of Trailmakers lies Expedition mode, where you start with a handful of building pieces and are sent off into a vast, hostile environment in search of more. Better wheels across that river? You'll need the horsepower to ramp over it safely, and if you can't engineer a solution, you might need to find better parts for the task elsewhere. It'll also help if your vehicle is fast enough to outrun any hungry fauna that may be wandering around.
The world is punctuated with small challenges requiring more specialized hardware. Get Ball A up onto Platform B? You'll need to assemble some variety of crane, or forklift, or catapult, or whatever else makes sense to get the job done. According to the developer's Early Access mission statement, a key focus of development from here on will be bulking out Expedition Mode with more of these unique challenges.
The physics engine looks surprisingly realistic, meaning that your first ramshackle buggy is liable to shake itself to pieces the moment you try driving across anything but perfectly flat ground. While poking around for gameplay footage so I might get a better peek at it in action, I did find one YouTuber attempting to construct a helicopter without a tail rotor. The results were just about what you'd expect.
According to our Katharine - who got to play it briefly at Gamescom - even when you do have all the required parts, it's still more than a little tricky to keep a chopper in line, but that sounds about right. If it wasn't a challenge to build something workable and fling it around the environment, it wouldn't be much of a game, would it?
Trailmakers will be available to buy on Steam on January 31st, and, if priced the same as on the developer's own site, will cost $20, with possible plans to raise the price once it's closer to release.