Mini Metro is one of my favourite titles to pick up and play for short sessions. It has a lovely arcade feel that stimulates your brain by making you rethink your strategies on how to best get the different passengers from point A to B, all done through a wonderful difficulty curve. I had no idea a sequel was even in the cards for the developers, but when I saw Mini Motorways on Steam, I instantly bought it. Admittedly, I did question what the change from building metros to building motorways would offer. The answer to that happened to be a delightful mix of the old and the new.
Keeping your eyes on the roads
This puzzle game contains 11 different landscapes, which basically act as stages. The goal in each of them, is to make the best setup of roads for letting the cars get from their small houses to the bigger ones of the same colour. These huge buildings will have pins appearing on top of them, showcasing that cars need to collect them and bring them to their garages. Each car can only collect one pin at a time, and if there are too many of these icons on one of the giant establishments, a timer will appear. If not enough pins are taken away before it runs out, the game is over.
Mini Motorways‘s premise is a simple one, but there are tons of elements to be aware of that turn this experience into a challenging and satisfying one. For starters, you have a limited amount of resources to go by, including roads. This will be your main asset to focus on due to it being the one you get the most quantity of, yet still few enough that you will have to plan every single placement of them carefully. In addition to this, these roads are motorways. Cars will have to wait in lines, crossroads can halt them from driving any further, and it is overall important to give the traffic a good flow.
Bridges to cross over water with, tunnels for letting cars go through mountains, roundabouts that create easier navigation, traffic lights for providing clear signals, and quick highways that can go over anything except mountains, will all be important tools that can change up your structures for the better. You can always delete and reuse any of your resources, but have to wait until cars stop using them. This is all fantastic, as you constantly have to be on your toes with how you proceed, but are always able to alter your plans accordingly. Everything is on a grid for easy placements of constructions, and while you cannot turn the bigger houses for making entering them easier, the smaller ones can be oriented in eight directions at any time, adding significant details to be aware of.
By the end of each in-game week, you will also be able to choose one of two sets of resources for some extra help. Both of them will offer a set amount of roads and one extra type of assets. This is always well balanced, with highways only giving you a small number of roads compared to the other ones, for example. I admire this, as it makes every choice valuable and the RNG a fair and exciting part of the game. You are gonna need every single support you can get, as this game will expand with more and varied coloured houses in different sizes and zoom out to reveal more of the map, turning your playthrough into a tapestry of motorways that will require tinkering in every corner.
However, this is not all. If one of the larger buildings get plenty of cars to its place, it will become bigger and be able to hold more pins. Eventually, there will also pop up two of these huge establishments on the same location, sharing one huge parking area compared to the singular ones that can only hold three cars. This escalation of challenge is beautiful and never stops, unless you decide to pause the action and rethink your strategies. I also love how racking up points is both for getting a high score and for unlocking new levels, giving this setup multiple purposes.
These different locations do change up in structure and can add in more rivers and/or mountains, but despite being diverse enough to be fun to tackle, few are distinct enough to become memorable. Besides this one minor issue, the subtle changes from Mini Metro by making the roads occupied by more vehicles and become a limited resource, add to create an unique and exhilarating title. This is a challenging puzzle game, with layouts of buildings and acquired assets being randomised upon every playthrough. These aspects make Mini Motorways easy to get to grips with, but hard to master in all the right way. An addictive title for sure.
Gameplay Score: 9.5/10
Beautiful road trip
I want to first say that it is commendable how Mini Motorways includes a colourblind mode, as it uses colour coding to depict what car goes into which house. That being said, I adore how vibrant and strong every single colour is. Not just those used for the simple buildings and vehicles, but also for the varied landscapes. By making each region have a distinct tone of colour to them, it adds to create a gorgeous world through its minimalism, such as having Tokyo filled with cherry blossoms and light fields. Combine this with subtle details, like seeing the shadow of the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro, and this is a marvellous game to look at.
Every location is memorable through their varied layouts and touch of cultural elements. Night mode also returns as a nice shift in tone and enhances the colours with darker shades of them, which is a neat detail. In the end, the game’s visuals are magnificent and the subtle aspect of zooming everything slowly out as you progress, is a brilliant way to highlight how far you have come in making your perfect structure. Even the shadows are effective and add to this style, even with their simple colouring. Who knew maps could be this beautiful?
The audio compliments the visuals spectacularly well. The cars’ cute honks and the gentle rumbles of their engines never become intrusive and instead work to enhance the atmosphere with light and soft effects to them, making them downright pleasant to listen to. The same can be said for placing any structure on the map, as they are minimalistic, but iconic and helps distinguish what action occurred. It says something when the act of deleting roads has a comforting sound to it, and the chimes of pins being collected is incredibly satisfying.
The music is strengthened by these hypnotic sound effects, as it consists of an echoed and electronic soundtrack. All of the melodies are pleasant and calm, while adding subtle beats to give the game a relaxing tone that focuses on making the player pay attention to the screen. It is a strange soundtrack that adds to the atmosphere and makes you easily addicted to keep playing, and I adore the subtle inclusion of it slowing down whenever you pause the game. To me, this is pure art.
Presentation Score: 10/10
When every detail needs to be tinkered with
The multiple levels add some nice diversity in structure and visuals as mentioned, but could use more varied set pieces to stand better out from each other. Luckily, all are enjoyable to tackle just from the gameplay alone and in order to see if you can pass your own high score. This makes the game have an endless amount of replay value, and with the fair and randomised setups of both resources to acquire and placement of buildings, it is easy to become addicted. There are even weekly and daily challenges containing interesting setups, which will definitely test your road mapping skills.
Extra Score: 9.5/10
Mini Motorways is a fantastic sequel that improves upon the original and simultaneously feels fresh by providing a unique experience. A wonderful art style enhanced by subtle details, great implementations of new mechanics that change up the gameplay significantly, and tons of replay value, all add to make this into an essential title to have on any device of your choosing. Just do not game and drive!