Sponsored By: Eleima
Time Commuting: 38 Minutes
It occurs to me how few developers realize that you can make an interesting game without particle effects and motion capture. Or, indeed, any frames of animation at all. Once in awhile, though, you encounter a game with a graphical design so simple it could have been done entirely in PowerPoint. Mini Metro is such a game.
Mini Metro is a mass-transit managing puzzle game, which is one of the reasons why the simple graphics work so well. The map looks like the sort of map you see on a subway wall, with each station represented by a simple shape, and every subway line represented by a different color. It’s reasonably intuitive, which is good because the game doesn’t spend much time explaining things to you. There isn’t a tutorial as I’ve come to understand the term. In fact, there’s very little text at all. This led to some confusion when I was trying to extend one subway line but ended up creating a new one instead, but after a couple of attempts I had most of the controls figured out to the point where I could focus on the game properly.
The player only controls which stations connect to each other and how. The station locations appear at irregular intervals in seemingly random locations. Perhaps, if I had ever been to London, I would know where to expect subway stations to crop up, but with my current knowledge of the Tube it just felt like they were being placed by orangutans throwing darts.
Of course, as a veteran of the MBTA during the Big Dig, I have to acknowledge that it’s entirely possible that this is how actual subway planning works: two people who don’t talk to each other taking turns trying to make each other’s lives difficult. It makes as much sense as any other explanation, and certainly more than if I try to convince myself that it was done on purpose.
At least the passengers don’t seem to mind. Every passenger is a shape that matches up with one of the subway station shapes and they don’t actually care which station they go to so long as it matches their shape. So round passengers will hop on a train and happily get off at whichever round subway station they stop at first. This makes my life easier, as a player, because if the passengers don’t care where they go, I sure as heck don’t.
The challenge lies in making sure that every station gets the appropriate amount of traffic. If you build a line that’s too long, the trains won’t embark often enough and the station will fill up. Once the station becomes overcrowded I can only assume the passengers riot because the station will be unceremoniously closed and you lose the game. Fear not, though. The only consequence of failure is having to start over, perhaps in a new city where they haven't heard of you.
And here we see the brilliance of the game’s design. For all of its abstract simplicity, Mini Metro is an uncannily realistic simulation of metropolitan subway planning. It truly is amazing what you can do without a physics engine or player models consisting of more than one polygon.
Will that be one more nickel?
I can happily say that I'll be spending more time with Mini Metro. In fact, I might even pick it up on a tablet, because it's the perfect game to have in your pocket with you when you're on the go.
Unless you accidentally try using it to plan your commute.
Is it the Dark Souls of Subway Maps?
Mini Metro has a place in any gamer’s library, but that place really should be on a tablet or other mobile device. It's a chill, soothing game with simple mechanics that is great for those moments when you're waiting for something else to happen. Like when you're lying in bed, or on the toilet.
Though why anyone would lie on a toilet is beyond me.