Game Review: Mini Metro

finds beauty in tube maps

Image Credit: Dinosaur Polo Club

Image Credit: Dinosaur Polo Club

Rating: ★★★★☆
Platform: PC, Mac
Release Date: 6 November 2015
Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club

Mini Metro is ostensibly a simple (yet elegant) public transportation simulator, where you drag different coloured lines from metro station to metro station, mapping a network in the same vein as the iconic maps of the London Underground or the New York City Subway.

The game lets you play in a variety of cities – Hong Kong, Berlin, Cairo – modelled after their bodies of water, which impact the difficulty. Take Osaka, which, due to its many islands, requires a well thought out deployment of the limited amount of tunnels you have access to. This makes the times when you’re given a choice between a new line and another tunnel, or two tunnels or a new super-fast train, difficult. As I played the game more, I became better at all this stuff, which itself is a satisfying learning experience. Learning to become more efficient with my resources, learning to connect various lines in the right way, and ultimately, to not overcrowd any of your stations, which is the failstate in the game’s main mode.

But that’s all the boring, on-the-surface stuff out of the way. What’s amazing about this game is how cohesive all its different elements are – the music and sound design, the clean and minimalist aesthetic inspired by the classic tube style of Harry Beck, the viscerally pleasing ‘game-feel’ of dragging and connecting stations – and how this all comes together to simulate a growing organism. A level might start with three simple icons – a triangle, a square, a circle – representing three small seeds of what will soon grow into an expansive and interconnected network. The game seems to simulate less a transportation system, and more a growing organism with all its tiny little components. And each time you play, the dynamic nature of the levels means that you’re helping mould and create a complex interconnected organism. You can hear trains disembarking from stations, iconized passengers getting off trains, and even the sounds of lines clicking into place when you drag them to a new station. All these little sounds blend together to form a thick, detailed texture of procedurally generated music, masterfully designed by Rich Vreeland, better known as Disasterpeace (Fez, It Follows). 

Yet despite the game’s excellent fusion of gameplay, its presentational elements, and its subtle themes, it didn’t hold me for as long as I would have liked. It engaged me while I was playing it, but I never felt a longing towards it when I was away from the game. Perhaps it will be more fit for its release on phones and tablets, which developer Dinosaur Polo Club says will come soon.

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