Apr 24, 2017
If I were to list some of the things that I find awful, trains would come near the top. They’re a mode of transport that doesn’t offer freedom and instead requires that you follow a rigid path through cramped tunnels and they only turn up when they want to. Imagine if your car refused to drive on anything other than the A13 and would only operate between the hours of 9am and 11pm. You wouldn’t stand for it, would you?
Anyway – my dislike for trains has been clearly noted and it’s only made it into this review to make the following statement even more impactful. Mini Metro is a game about operating trains and I think it’s outstanding. So there.
Some more detail, then. Mini Metro is something of an arcade puzzle game. The puzzle is that you’re looking at a map with train stations on it – much like the maps you’d see for London’s Underground service. These stations are all different shapes and soon you see they have passengers waiting at them. These passengers are also made of certain shapes which designates where they want to go. A small triangle waiting at the Square station simply means there’s someone who wants to go from the Square Station to the Triangle Station. Easy.
So you draw a line from one station to the next. The problem is that you have limited resources, such as tunnels, carriages and bridges. The arcade element comes with the pace of the game throwing new stations at you. The maps start off with 3 stations but very quickly you’re trying to figure out how to serve 20 stations of all varying shapes.
The trick is to try and figure out a sensible route for your trains to run, as customers will happily switch lines. What happens if you have too many people waiting at one stop though? What if 3 different lines all converge on one overcrowded station? It’s game over, that’s what.
The game will give you upgrades, such as faster trains, more carriages or more lines, but having these extra tools doesn’t always make your job easy. You still need to really think about just how to best serve your customers and just how overstretched one part of your train service is compared to other parts.
Each level does end in a ‘game over’ though, with the aim being to survive as long as you can. You need to transport as many passengers as possible and to reach a certain score to unlock the next level. However, even though each playthrough ends in a defeat of sorts, with you trying to best your previous score, it’s rare to feel angry at the game for causing your demise. 99% of the time you curse yourself for not changing the layout of your lines sooner, for not adding an extra carriage or for not noticing that a particular station was becoming too crowded.
There are the 1% of times, however, where you will feel slightly cheated by a sudden boom of popularity that simply couldn’t be predicted. These are few and far between though and what you have is a game that’s damn near perfect.
Mini Metro has sublime game design that has you cursing yourself, planning ahead and needing to react in the moment all at the same time. I hate trains. I love Mini Metro.