Mini Metro is a game that’s so simple almost anyone could think it up, and as someone who has dabbled in amateur game design this makes this make me a little green with jealousy. However the sheer level of perfection that was required to put the final result of this title together is absolutely one of a kind.
A wordless tutorial starts the game off, a mere gesture implying the player to connect two shapes together. The shapes are stations, and the lines connecting them are railroads. Locomotives dedicated to a certain coloured line, will go back and forth stopping at stations picking up and dropping off the relevant shapes that act as passengers. A triangle passenger needs to be dropped off at a triangular station, so it’s always very clear where your passengers are headed.
The goal of the default normal mode is to last as long as possible ensuring none of these stations stay overcrowded for too long. However you only have a limited number of coloured lines, and none of these lines can be split. They either have to be one long line from start to finish, or a circuit. A clock ticks by in the top right hand corner as the days go by. At the end of each week you get a new locomotive to put on one of your many tracks, and a choice between two further upgrades. These choices usually consist of a new line, carriage or a couple of tunnels to cross water.
My first hour of the game was very reactionary, if a station started to become overcrowded I would add more carriages or re-draw the track (which can be done in an instant, and at any time in normal mode). The more I played I started to develop my own strategies, dedicating certain lines to different parts of the map. Trying my best to spread out the work equally as possible along my lines, and making sure busy stations had enough lines running through them. Dissecting an issue with your train-line isn’t always easy, but it’s never ambiguous to an extent of feeling unfair. For instance if you can clearly see all the square passengers piling up, you need a more efficient route to a square station. The addictive fun of Mini Metro is trying to solve this puzzle efficiently as possible, in the hope you don’t start a domino effect of other problems.
Recovering from a difficult situation isn’t easy either, sometimes it’s just too late to solve an issue in time. That might sound frustrating, but that’s why Mini Metro is so good, it has a wonderful balance of tactics and strategy. You need to develop a basic strategy as you start, but often an awkward station will appear out of nowhere. Now you need to tacitly find the best way to deal with it, which might involve rewriting your entire strategy. I’m making this sound overly complicated, but it never feels overwhelming, in reality a lot of this happens subconsciously. Mini Metro is a game where you will naturally get better the more times you play, but you’re never sure exactly why or how you’re better at it. As I continued I found myself executing relatively complicated strategies quite effortlessly. It’s as complex or relaxing as you want it to be, Mini Metro is happy to let you find your feet, but if you want a challenge it’s more than ready to deliver.
Mini Metro offers 13 different locations for you to construct your train lines, you start with about 5 and unlock the rest one by one. Each ever so slightly different from the last, for instance Osaka will introduce shinkansen (bullet trains) to the mix, a faster alternative to the classic locomotive, however you’ll have to choose between one shinkansen or two locomotives. One of the later locations, Cairo, introduces much smaller carriages that only hold 4 passengers. None of the levels alter the core formula of the game too much, so it never feels like you have to completely throw out your old strategies. The colour scheme of your lines changes with each area matching the real tube maps, a clever little touch.
I find it hard to believe I’ve got this far through my review without mentioning the art style. Everything from the stations, to the bright colours, how the lines join together matches that of the London Underground tube map. It is satisfyingly crisp and almost flawless, however the text appears to be a little bit fuzzy on my relatively large monitor. Don’t get me wrong, this is an example of nit picking at it’s finest but when everything looks so perfect the smallest of things tend to stick out.
Disasterpeace’s soundtrack is the final thing that brings this game together, gone are the typical scores and background music of most indie games. Each time a passenger boards a train, a single note or piece of percussion is played, the low-frequency droning of the individual locomotives even add to the soundtrack. This is all brought together to create a tune that sounds different with every play through. Gradually getting more and more intense, as an increasing amount of passengers await to board their trains.
It’s hard to pick fault with Mini Metro, Dinosaur Polo Club took almost every element of their game and took it beyond regular expectations. More importantly they did this while keeping the concept beautifully simple. It’s hard to not enjoy this game, and those who really like it will be more than happy with Daily Challenges and other modes it has to offer.
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