In this world of ever-increasing graphically complex games, designed to be as stunning and as lifelike as possible, it’s always nice to get back to what actually matters about playing games – the game play. Like all the best games (in my opinion), Mini Metro is so very simple to pick up, and yet so very difficult to master.
It’s such a simple concept really… You have a selection of stations that you need to connect in order to allow your passengers to travel to their desired destination. The stations are shapes. The passengers are the shape of their destination, and it’s your job to lay out the tracks and trains to get them from A to B. To do this you simply click and drag from one station to the next, and that’s it – they’re connected, and a train will appear and start moving back and forth between them. You can extend the track to another station, or add a different line that is represented in a different colour.
As your train passes a station that has passengers waiting, it will stop briefly to allow them to get on as well as dropping off any passengers that are bound for that station or using it as an intersection between lines. Your trains have a limited capacity though, but that’s OK as at the end of each game week you get a new train and the choice of something else, like a new line, an additional carriage (which doubles a trains capacity), more tunnels or bridges in order to cross rivers, or a station upgrade that means that passengers transfer from platform to train quicker.
And so Mini Metro gently lulls you into the soothing life of a subway architect. There’s no music to speak of, just the gentle hum of your trains as they speed up and slow down, and the general chatter of the passengers as they navigate across the map… which slowly, slowly zooms out, getting bigger, and bigger – more stations appear, more passengers, more and more and more… until it’s no longer soothing, and you’re desperately trying to make sure that the little triangle people are able to get on a train at the square station, so that they can transfer to the blue line in order to get to the only damn triangle station on the map before the queues get too long and it’s game over, but you can’t because the stupid train can only carry 12 people and they’re all circles bound for a station beyond the square station, so the train won’t even stop!
Oh, and to top it all off, just when you think you’ve got enough infrastructure in place to handle the ever-increasing demand on your subway, the damn stations start changing shape and you’re no longer looking at basic shapes, but now have to deal with diamonds and stars and pentagons etc. And of course they’re all really popular destinations and that’s causing merry hell at your interchanges!
So yeah, Mini Metro looks simple, it is simple, but it’s also not. What it is though is incredibly polished – the animations are smooth, the AI is actually intelligent, the graphics (such as they are) feel like they have been lovingly crafted, and the gameplay is fluid and generally magnificent. There are also a plethora of maps, each one offering different problems (mainly due to the position of rivers and the denseness of stations), and different game modes to try out: In addition to “Normal”, wherein you need to stop stations from getting overcrowded, there are also “Endless” and “Extreme” modes. The former is pretty self-explanatory, but the latter basically locks down track placement so that they cannot be edited.
There are also daily challenges, which are a nice touch, and you get leaderboards aplenty in order to allow you to see just how great you really are in comparison to your friends. Mini Metro features additional colour modes too – so you can opt to play in Night Mode or Colourblind mode, a nice touch. Oh, and also worth mentioning are the language options, including English (UK), which only seems to change the “Colourblind” word to be spelt correctly!
The only downside I can see to this game really, is a lack of drive to replay it. Yes there are lots of modes and maps and challenges, and these coupled with the usual raft of achievements and steam cards etc means that in theory all the bases are covered… but you don’t need to play the game – it’s not something you yearn to do – while you’re playing you can lose hours and hours, everything is lovely and wonderful, a joy really, but after you’ve played it solidly for a few days you kind of wonder why you were and move on to something else.
All-in-all though I can happily state that Mini Metro is an enjoyable casual strategy game that I am glad I got to play, and would happily recommend it to others. It’s worth noting that there are Android and iOS versions too, which might be a good alternative and a better fit with the casual-style of gameplay – but speaking for the PC game, it’s worth picking up.