When I was attending university, I lived quite far away from my family. I remember every time I did not have classes to attend to for more than a couple of days, I traveled home or to friends by railroad. Even when I was traveling to Denmark as a part of my studies, I almost had to use the metro more than my own feet, but that was alright. I always found something comforting about traveling by trains or the metro, and while I hope to never need to travel for 12-14 hours more than twice a year anymore, I still have fond memories of those journeys. While sitting on the train for yet another 12-hour ride, I thought about checking out a title that intrigued me and since I have more time to kill, why not review it as well?
All on board!
Mini Metro is a puzzle-game that is somewhat a mix between Railroad Tycoon and Tetris. You start off by connecting a small amount of stops together by creating a line between them. Each stop is represented by a shape, such as circles and squares, with passengers also representing the shape of the stop they want to get to. As days passes, more and different stops pop up that you must connect to, as well as more passengers to transport from point A to B. However, while the concept is simple, there are a lot of hindrances to your progress to make it more interesting.
Trains and wagons can only hold six passengers each, and if one of the stops gets too full for a long time, it is game over. Railroads, represented by different colors, can support the time it takes to travel from one distance to another, but more wagons and trains can take more passengers, and you can make regular stops into interchanges so they can maintain more people. This is a really smart mechanic, making you question which approach is the smartest, since you have only a limited amount of each. There are also natural obstacles, represented by mountains or waters, where you must make bridges or tunnels that are also limited.
The amount of people will start increasing each day and the camera will move more and more away from the original start, showcasing more stops to cover. You can always change the setup for roads and the amount of trains, wagons and bridges/tunnels on the fly, and by the end of each week, you will get one extra train, and a choice between two other items. The items range from rails, wagons, trains, interchanges or bridges/tunnels. This helps giving you a breather and think strategically throughout the game, both on your layout and what items you might need.
There is a selection of areas to tackle, but they only change minor parts of the layout, with some being noticeably harder. It is a nice addition, but doesn’t do more than alter your approach slightly. While more to the different layouts would have been nice, the game is so well designed with its concept, that I would not be surprised if people will talk about this as highly as Tetris.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Minimalistic = comforting
The game takes on a minimalist presentation and yet, it is quite effective. With strong colors on white areas and not much visual filler, it creates a calm atmosphere, making it easy to lower the shoulders. One incredibly smart move is the colorblind-option, showcasing that the developers knew what they were doing. The night and day-mode is also a nice extra, still giving the minimalist touch a high focus, but also letting you choose what is more pleasing to you.
The composer behind Fez and It follows did the soundtrack for this and it is calm, with heavy focus on chillstep, making the game quite relaxing. There is a good selection of tones and even the sound-effects are minimalist and comforting.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Just one more try
If you get a game over, you will have the option to continue in endless-mode til your heart’s content. Here, you will get additional items not by weeks, but by how effective you are until your town has reached its limit, which is a nice touch. Daily challenges also help the replay-value, making getting a high score feel rewarding. However, it is the sheer calm and joy of the game itself that will make you come back and see if you can get any further than last time or even reach the city-limit of each area. The achievements are cute, but not much more.
Extra Score: 9/10
Mini Metro is something that everybody should have, either on their phone or on PC. It is innovative and an effective take on the puzzle-genre, and easy to come back to for more. It really shows how less can be so much more.