Mind the gap! The tube in London serves as an intricate web that connects a vast city to each landmark. Last summer I found myself staring at the Underground map wondering how deep all the tunnels went, how they avoided one another or buildings, and solving each trip like a puzzle. Developer Dinosaur Polo Club must have had a similar experience as they published the puzzle strategy game Mini Metro in 2015. The game centered on the challenge of building a metro system that would successfully manage the commuting needs of a city.
Can Mini Metro move you? Let’s dive in and find out.
The game begins by emerging you gameplay. It is refreshing to not have to sort through a multitude of menus and decipher options that I know nothing about. Instead the game begins. That is not to say there are no menus, but on my first go it jumped me straight into the game. The menus came later once I had experienced the game and have a context for the menu and options available.
The first thing I noticed was the simplicity of the game. It began as connect the dots. Everything was controlled with a single click and drag of the mouse to the desired destination. As I progressed, I discovered I could put in multiple lines of subway track (crucial!). Then when a week finishes, noted by a timer in the top right corner, more resources become available. Each successful week is celebrated with a new train and the choice between two needed resources. I desperately wanted to choose both, but the challenge is to decide. At first, I thought more lines would be the best. This choice meant I could not move as many people as with carriages, or as quickly with interchanges, or bridges to cross water barriers. These resource choices and setting track make up the bulk of the game.
The depth of the game comes as stations begin to become crowded. Adding a resource to alleviate the back up is crucial to survive. Stations also change to a new shape (like a plus sign or half circle), which means specific passengers that must be transported completely through the system that is already overcrowding.
A few advanced micro managing tricks can help to conquer these challenges. Trains and track can be moved at any time. There is also a pause button, imagine that, that can allow you to think through the moves and structure that you want.
The design of the game is minimalist. It keeps the map as basic as possible, mirroring famous underground maps. Track lines are a single solid color while stations are a simple shape. The bare picture keeps the focus on the puzzle and eliminates distractions as you brainstorm strategic ways to solve people moving problems.
The music and sound accent the game play and feel perfectly. The music is mellow and simple. It resembles meditative music you might find in a spa. Tones are also played as people are dropped off at the correct station. The result is a peaceful melancholic atmosphere that calms. Even with the time pressure, the overall simplicity and music keep the peaceful mindset. This often resulted in my allowing the system to fail as I was never worried.
Replay is a challenge here. The game attempts to work through this with many different maps (cities), daily challenges, and different modes. The modes provide the most value as you can do the regular challenge or an endless challenge. In an endless game the system will not grow until you are able to handle it. If peaceful system creating is your thing then endless mode will keep you for hours. Extreme and daily challenges are marked by not being able to change your track lines ones they are set. The crux of every mode is the exact same game play with a small rule change. As a result the replay value is not incredibly high.
I found myself speeding up every map to the fastest setting. Then I would play through for 5-10 minutes, accomplishing the goal and unlock the next map. Once done I felt no draw to return. This quick style of gameplay perfectly suit it for mobile gaming.
Mini Metro is a fun and simple puzzle game. Its calm music and minimalist style will memorize you. While deeper strategy and micro managing the system is possible, the game ultimately runs out of steam quickly. The game is great with young kids or a quick play, but not worth a long investment (money or time). The ideal use of this game is as a transition piece to bridge the gap from one AAA game to the next. True to its nature, Mini Metro is perfect to mind the gap.