Review: Mini Metro25 Oct 2016 23
Review: Mini Metro
Released 18 Oct 2016
I love maps and have a large and growing collection of maps and books about maps. One such book, Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden, is full of simple yet excellent maps of subways and elevated train systems around the world. Many of these maps are beautify and efficient and should be considered nothing short of art.
Given this, Mini Metro—a puzzle game where you take control of a major subway system and thereby bring its map to life—held immediate appeal. The game is developed by Dinosaur Polo Club and has been out for about a year for PC and Mac, amassing 96% positive reviews on Steam. It was just recently released for mobile, on both iOS and Android, and I was excited to take a look.
You start out easy—just a few subway stations dot your transit map. You connect them with a couple different rail lines to get things rolling. Each station is a basic symbol—a circle, square, or plus sign for example–and the lines are a solid color. Passengers start showing up at the stations and indicate where they want to go based on those symbols. A "square" passenger wants to go to a square station, circle to a circle, and so on. They seem to be agnostic as to which station they end up at, so long as it is the right symbol.
That peaceful, easy feeling doesn't last long and Mini Metro ramps up the complexity quickly. More and more passengers will show up with different transit demands and the game will have you scrambling to keep. New stations will pop up and you you'll have to connect existing lines to them. It is a constant juggling act to make sure your lines connect, one way or another, to the right stations and that you have enough trains servicing the most trafficked routes. The more passengers move through your system, the higher your score. If any station becomes too crowded your system fails and it's game over.
As your passenger count grows you get access to new assets to meet the demand: new rail lines, more locomotives, carriage cars that increase the capacity of a specific train, more efficient terminals, and tunnels and bridges to go under or over rivers. These assets frequently come in the form of a choice: Do you want a new line or a carriage? Would you prefer a carriage or a couple of tunnels? You have to make your decision based on both current constraints of the system and what you anticipate you will need when things get even crazier.
Mini Metro features thirteen real-world city maps. You start with London, Paris, New York City, and Berlin and unlock Melbourne, Hong Kong, Osaka, Saint Petersburg, Montréal, San Francisco, São Paulo, Cairo, and Auckland by obtaining a modest score on the starting maps. There are also two modes of play. Normal mode lets you pause and rebuild your tracks as the need arises. A redo feature real-world transit engineers would undoubtedly love. Extreme mode is far more realistic: your train tracks are permanent and you really must expand with caution.
There's quite a bit of strategy involved in Mini Metro and you will definitely formulate subway-building strategies the more you play. The biggest learning curve item is thinking ahead about how to best use each line. The longer one is, the longer the wait times your passengers will face. You'll also learn to hold your assets as long as possible and only make a move when you need to address a specific problem station or line.
THE LOOK AND FEEL
Mini Metro is all about the minimal design in an effort to replicate transit maps of real systems. This works and looks great, especially for fans of subway map art. Simple is also intuitive in this case, and the use of symbols to indicate where passengers want to go, and where those on trains are already headed is an effective choice. You can see problem stations developing as more and more passenger symbols appear next to a station symbol. Mini Metro further highlights critical areas with a shaded circle that begins filling up clockwise around the station. Once it's full, game over.
The user interface is similarly efficient and intuitive. You drag your finger between stations to drop train lines and are able to zoom in and out as desired. There are options to pause the game and make changes or speed things up when everything is running smoothly. My only real complaint is that the interface can get a bit touchy when redrawing tracks. If you aren't pretty precise it might take a time or two to get it right.
Mini Metro also includes a couple nice visual options. Night mode inverts black and white for darker play areas. The game also has a colorblind mode, a nice accessibility option for a game that relies heavily on color to distinguish the train lines. You can also watch a video of a game you just played, if you want to relive your mistakes.
Mini Metro is a well-made game. The design is simple and attractive. Replicating the subway maps most of us have seen, some on a daily basis, and using real-world cities was a great decision by the developers. The interface is equally intuitive and gameplay is simple. The game itself is an increasingly challenging puzzle, it will certainly engage your strategic and tactical mind, and you will lose and try again. The different maps and desire to chase a high score gives Mini Metro solid replayability.
So why am I giving this one four instead of five stars? The main reason is price. Price matters and at the time of this review Mini Metro a $5 game. While I wouldn't balk at that price myself, I recognize that the game lands smack in the middle of a Venn diagram of my favorite things.
Some readers may feel this is a lot to pay for what is ultimately a puzzle game, no matter how well done, and that is true. If I had to choose between this game and Concrete Jungle for my $5, the choice would be an easy one. At two or three dollars Mini Metro enters no-brainer territory. If you love puzzle games, love maps or playing amateur architect, and your gaming budget allows…spend the $5 without reservation. Mini Metro is a great game and will provide hours of entertainment.