12/09/2018

🚅 Review: Mini Metro “Totally Tubular” 🚅 #GameDev #IndieGame @GazChap

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Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Rating: Ice Cool
Review by: Gareth ‘GazChap’ Griffiths (@GazChap)
Perhaps it’s because I’m a child of the 1980s, but ever since I first laid eyes on Dinosaur Polo Club’s Mini Metro (which was released for Windows in late 2015 and arrived on iOS and Android nearly a year later, and is now available for the Nintendo Switch) I’ve been aching to see someone bring back the phrase “totally tubular” to describe it.
It’s never happened, at least not to my knowledge, so I feel privileged that I’ve been given the opportunity to correct this heinous lack of Underground-based puns in reviews of the game. You’ll soon find it tunnelling deep into your brain and setting up station for a while. It’s that good.
But what is it about? Well, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the last three years, Mini Metro is a charming and minimalist puzzler that presents you with the easier-than-it-sounds task of designing an efficient metro system for one of the game’s many cities.
After choosing a location (and as a Brit, the only correct choice for your first go at the game is London, natch) the game presents you with three stations, each marked by a different symbol. You must then join these stations together with a train line.
Before too long, you’ll realise that it will improve efficiency for you to create another line that serves some stations, and allow your passengers to cross lines at interchange stations, just like real-life metro systems.
You’ll also need to cross water or another natural obstacle at some point, and the game will automatically construct a tunnel or a bridge to get around the problem – but these are limited in number, so you need to plan carefully.
As time goes on, more stations appear on the city map that need connecting up (provided you have the resources to do so!) and after every game week (which lasts just a few minutes in real time) you are awarded with a new locomotive to place on your network, and your choice of an additional reward.
These rewards range from additional lines, which allow you to expand without adding to the load on an existing line; extra carriages, which increase a single train’s capacity; new bridges/tunnels; and even station upgrades, which reduce the likelihood of overcrowding and speed up transfers between lines.
Of course, the longer you play, the more passenger numbers increase and the more crowded your network becomes. A crowded station is an unhappy station, so the goal on each city level is quite simple, really. Build as efficient a network as you can, that serves as many passengers as possible, before one of your stations gets too overcrowded and forces your metro to close. At least, that’s the goal in Normal mode. The game also includes Endless mode and Extreme mode.
When playing in Endless mode, stations do not overcrowd so you can build for true efficiency rather than bodging together a last-minute hack to reduce overcrowding at a problem station.
Extreme mode is for serious players – functionally it’s the same as Normal mode, stations can overcrowd and end your game before you know it, but in Extreme mode, when you lay a track between two stations, it’s permanent. Normal mode allows you to move tracks around to connect new stations up to an existing line. While this can be both a blessing and a curse, it is a nice safety net to have, and Extreme mode takes that all away. Just as well then, that Extreme mode is completely locked until you perform various feats of awesomeness in Normal mode (for example, carrying at least 1,000 passengers in London using no more than one tunnel)
The game features a wide array of cities around the world in which you can wreak subway-based havoc. The four initial cities – London, Paris, New York and Berlin – all present their own unique challenges and obstacles. Carry enough passengers in the Berlin stage and you’ll unlock the next city, and so on until you’ve unlocked all 20 cities.
Mini Metro is also marvellously appealing from an audio-visual perspective. The game’s graphics have purposefully been designed to mimic the style of transit maps, with bold coloured lines and geometric shapes aplenty. The game thoughtfully includes a colour-blind mode which adjusts the colour scheme to help those with visual impairments. A “night mode” is also included which uses a dark colour as the background instead of the stark white, which is great for helping to reduce eyestrain on the inevitably long sessions of play.
The audio is largely procedural and generated on-the-fly, with sound effects for passengers boarding and alighting and trains arriving. A calming ambient musical score in the background helps to keep you relaxed, which is most welcome when you have a sprawling mess of colours on your screen and an increasingly unhappy customer-base waiting for trains.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, the game also supports co-operative play for up to four players on the same console. The goal changes slightly in co-op mode – rather than getting to the end of the week, you have to reach certain ridership milestones to get new assets to deploy on your network. Overcrowding seems to be impossible in this mode too, and as co-op games go it works surprisingly well. I could definitely see it testing relationships, but not quite to the extreme as, say, Overcooked.
Where the game is slightly let down is with its controls and tutorial system.
Controls-wise, you interact with the game with the joypads or with the touch screen. The touch screen is the most intuitive method, but obviously only works when you have the console in front of you – and if you accidentally touch the wrong thing there is no undo button, which caught me out more times than I’d care to admit. It’s far harder to screw up with the joypads, but they too have the problem – it can often be very niggly using the joystick to navigate to the node that you want to work with on the map. Fortunately, the developers included a pause button that lets you stop time while you think about what to do next, which is a boon in some situations and is a most welcome addition.
The tutorial system also could be better. It’s not bad, per-se, but it seems to take forever to move on to the next part of the tutorial, and it doesn’t always do a great job of explaining what is going on and how to resolve things. Part of the fun is, of course, just working this stuff out by yourself, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
Those two small (and I do mean small) issues aside, Mini Metro is an absorbing game that will keep you addicted into the wee small hours. In fact, I let my wife take over our co-op game about 45 minutes ago and she’s still going strong, channelling her inner Brunel.
Summary
Anyway, to sum up – buy it. If you’ve already got it for your iOS or Android device, then it may not be so attractive a prospect, but if you’ve only got it on your PC, adding it to your catalogue of games you can play on the move is a no-brainer, because when all is said and done, it’s totally tubular.
❄️ RATING: ICE COOL ❄️
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)