Barebones indie game delivers A+ simulation

SIMPLE, YET IMPACTFULL DECISIONS DICTATE the pace of a game in Mini Metro.

A few weeks ago, I picked up the latest deal on Humble Bundle 47 games for just $30, a deal that no one could pass up. Out of the pile of untouched games in my Steam library, I plucked out one that interested me: Mini Metro. I went into Mini Metro expecting a complex, sophisticated public transportation simulation. What I got was completely different, and yet it was quite appealing.

What struck me first was how everything was just… simple. No fancy loading screen, no intro sequence, and no cutscene to set the stage. The game loaded in quite literally two seconds and all I had to do was click play. I got dropped into the game without so much as a tutorial to hold my hand. But I didn’t need one. My path was clear. Before me was a white screen divided by a wide blue line, the color of water. On one side of that line were three shapes: a square, a triangle, and a circle. Next to the square appeared a small circle. I clicked on the square and dragged my cursor from the big square to the big circle. A yellow line connected them. A yellow rectangle appeared, collected the tiny circle next to the big square, and moved along the yellow line to the big circle, where the tiny circle was deposited. There, I’ve explained the entire game.

Game mechanics wise, it just doesn’t get more complicated. Strategy wise, it does. As the player connects more “stations” with metro lines, a few events occur to spice up the gameplay. Periodically, new stations will pop up, either as one of the previously mentioned shapes or, occasionally, as a star, pentagon, diamond, etc. With the new stations come new passengers, who will want to get to the stations in a hurry. For every in-game week, the player receives two bonuses, one picked by the player and the other picked at random. The player can choose a new train, a train carriage, a new train line, a tunnel (for going under rivers), or a station upgrade. It seems trivial at first, but, as the game progresses, it becomes evident that every decision is important.

I did, by mistake, find out it is possible to lose playing Mini Metro. If the player (me) builds a metro network that resembles spaghetti or a neglected server closet, a loss is imminent. If the little shapes can’t get to their station quickly enough, I guess the shapes get angry and cause you to go out of business. It’s an effort to push efficiency and resource management, which I found quite enjoyable. Pausing the game to delete and rework my layout was quite a bit of fun, even if I still was overrun by passengers in the end.

To go along with its minimalist design is a minimalist soundtrack. The music is there, but not overpowering. Any more than a few soft notes would ruin the atmosphere. Passengers also make little melodic pings as they get on the trains, creating a somewhat random, tranquil soundtrack to listen to as you play. Although I haven’t yet, I think this would be the perfect game for catching up on some podcasts or listening to a new album.

I would say I enjoyed playing Mini Metro, but I’d never purchase it as a standalone game. At $10, I feel like that money could be better spent elsewhere. There are some maps to unlock through playing, and I can see how strategy needs to be developed to handle metro lines. But it’s not enough, for me, at $10. I think I would recommend getting the game through a bundle, like I did, or if it goes on sale and can be boughtfor $5 or less.

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