If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to spend a day in the life of a Sydney Trains conductor, Dinosaur Polo Club have got you covered. Their subway-map simulator MiniMetro takes a step back from the complicated nature of actually driving a train and instead puts you in the role of the track planner. It’s okay, no passengers were harmed in the making of this game.
It’s a simple game with a simple goal, but its insatiable addictiveness means you can’t play for just five minutes. Stations are represented by shapes on the map; squares, triangles and circles at first, until things get more complicated and stations begin to range into crescents and diamonds. It’s your job to click and drag lines between the stations to get the passengers, represented by the shape of the station, to the station they wish to go to, without any stations overflowing. Different lines are represented by different bold colours, much like a regular subway/railway map, and you have limited resources when you inevitably need to build under or over a body of water.
The game is comprised of twelve levels, each an iconic transport system from around the globe, ranging from Melbourne to London. There are three game modes, Standard, Endless and Extreme. Standard is the most entertaining and the one that had us going back.
Things generally begin quite calmly on each level in Standard mode. You’ll begin with one each of a square, triangle and circle station and there aren’t many passengers around to test your infrastructure. Everything goes smoothly until a station pops up on the other side of the bay and you have to decide which line will get the bridge or tunnel to traverse to the edge of town. You receive bonuses each in-game week including extra trains, carriages for increased capacity, improved interchanges, additional lines and bridges or tunnels. While you’re given a choice between two of these things, the situation will often dictate which one you must choose.
Now, there are more than 15 stations on the map, things are getting a little hectic. Overcrowded stations pulse, reminding you of how quickly defeat can come. A strategically placed extra carriage can buy you almost a week of in-game time, and you’ll need it if you want to progress to the next level. This is it. You’re doing it. You could be a real subway planner! Now you’re hooked. After a slow start, the tipping point is reached in what feels like seconds. A station collapses under the sheer weight of potential passengers, and you find yourself clicking ‘Replay’ instead of ‘Exit’ more often than not. There’s a method to the madness, and finding the balance between far-reaching lines and frequent trains are key to reaching milestones.
quite beautiful but very hard. Montreal Extreme mode #minimetro #Dailychallenge score 1015 your turn @DippyDolittle pic.twitter.com/ifUrKip0g3
— Joel Wright (@DepressedMonk3y) May 13, 2016
In Standard mode, there is no “win”. The aim is to stay in business until you reach the pre-requisite to unlock the next level. Extreme mode takes Standard to the next level. Once you lay down a track, you can’t edit it at all. It’s best to get familiar with the map in Standard mode before trying this one out. Endless mode is the most laid back of all the modes. Your goal is to get as many passengers travelling on your system per day, and reaching milestones unlocks bonuses. There is no defeat on Endless mode, you can play all day until you reach peak efficiency.
The design is so simple but so familiar. If you’ve ever caught a train before, almost anywhere in the world, you’ve probably seen a map of the stations. A big white expanse punctuated by colourful lines running all over the joint. That is exactly the design that MiniMetro has nailed. It makes it easy to navigate and organise lines as you connect all the stations and the learning curve is less steep.
If your speakers are below 50% when you fire up the game, it’s likely you won’t even register the sound, but it’s there and it’s perfect. The background music reacts perfectly with how the player interacts with the stations, and the minimalist approach to the soundscape lets the flow of the game take hold and it all just works so well together.
After Early Access on Steam in November 2015, MiniMetro is now available on Windows, OS X and Linux, and a mobile version of the game is slated for later in 2016. MiniMetro scores 8/10, taking into account that is a small and cheap game. Available for only 9.99 USD on the Steam Store, MiniMetro is fantastic value for money. If you’re after a game to occupy a few hours and give you a break from some of the more intense triple-A titles, this is for you. A simple and flawless game, the only negative we can garner from MiniMetro is that we simply want more. 12 levels and three modes are good for 9.99 USD, but it leaves us wishing there were so many more.
This review is based on the Windows version via Steam. Game-play on other platforms may vary.