Mini Metro for the Nintendo Switch Review
Developed by Dinosaur Polo Club, Mini Metro is a strategy game first released on Windows systems in 2015. Since then, it has been released on iOS and Android, before finally gracing the Nintendo Switch this month. Receiving critical acclaim on every system to date, is Mini Metro still a relevant game some three years later or is this train now out of service?
Mini Metro tasks you with creating a network of train stations which can operate under the demands of its customers each week. Your success is determined by the number of weeks your train network can remain in operation and the number of passengers who visited in that time (both of which can be found in the top right of the screen.) As the demand on your network gets bigger, the more stations that appear that you have to incorporate in to your design. The stations are represented by differing shapes (circles, squares, triangles etc.) and the passengers are signified by the corresponding shape that they wish to travel to i.e. if a passenger is a square, they wish to travel to the closest ‘square’ station.
The game affords you the opportunity to control time by either pausing to control your thoughts or placing it on fast forward to speed up the process – if only they could do that for everyone’s commute each day! This is an excellent method for allowing for strategic choices to be made and I also found myself creating my own challenges to spice things up. For example, I would play the entire level on fast forward or ban myself from using the pause button.
Each successful week that passes means that new assets become available for you to use. You may receive a new train which you can place on an existing train line, a carriage which can be added to a train to increase the number of passengers allowed, an interchange to improve the stations capacity (useful when a popular station is becoming overcrowd), new train lines and tunnels/bridges. Each serves a purpose and has its own perks so deciding which you think would benefit you most is a challenge. It can be the difference between success and failure – failure being a station having too many passengers waiting for a train and it becoming overcrowded.
At the time of playing, there were 20 stations on offer. The first available from the off: London, Paris, New York and Berlin. The later levels are unlocked by accumulating a certain number of visitors to one of the previous stations i.e. unlock Stockholm by scoring 500 on Osaka. Fortunately, 500 is the largest total you will be asked to achieve to unlock the next city. This is a reasonable request and means the casual gamer can still access the contents of the game without having to put hours and hours in. Some of the final stations do become more challenging as you would expect, but I was still able to complete each station within the 10 hours or so I played.
Additional to the standard game mode, there is a daily challenge which is an excellent inclusion. It allows you to access one of the stations you may have not unlocked yet for the day. It then shares your score on an online leaderboard. It was only when my score got uploaded to the online leaderboard did I realise that there is some way for me to go before I can be deemed a successful train network designer!
My biggest downfall was finding I had to regularly remind myself that the network of trains I was creating had to be functional and not aesthetically pleasing. One too many times I made the wrong design choice just because it would look nice or it was symmetrical! This may be where I have to acknowledge I have a bigger problem that needs looking at…
Graphically, this game is a sight to behold. Through its minimalistic, simplistic design full of vibrant colour, it set the tone for a chilled gaming experience steeped in strategy. I enjoyed loading the game up each time as it is a breath of fresh air to see a game so confident in what it is looking to achieve that it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles that other games currently on the market have included. There are a variety of options to mix things up, including day and night mode which changes the backdrop from white to black and an additional choice for those who are colourblind.
Just as impressive as the graphical choices is the audio in this game. Even more so when there is an understanding of what has been achieved. Using the actions of the players and the network of trains created, the game procedurally generates sounds to suit. It won’t be for everyone and some may be wishing for more, but in an era of indie games galore, it is always good to stand out.
Personally, I think there is a lot to like about this game. The simplistic graphical design and gameplay is outstanding. You can pick up and play the game at any time: sink hours or minutes in depending on your preference. The strategic nature of the game is also a strength, and by allowing the control of time, it means you can take your time and consider your next move. I thoroughly enjoyed watching my ideas come to fruition.
The variety of cities on offer and how they differ was also excellent. For example, some cities operate using a tram system rather than a network of trains and this was represented in the game. I felt the developers had managed to replicate the personality of these big cities in their maps and this is very impressive with a game of such minimal graphical design.
There was little for me to dislike about this game. I found the experience to be well-balanced and enjoyable at every stage. The dislikes I have are more personal recommendations or things I would have liked to have seen. The most important of which for me was the lack of motivation to continue playing the same station. As it is a score-based system which is never-ending, once I had achieved the requisite points to unlock the next station, I didn’t feel the need to go back to play the station again. An online leaderboard shown after each playthrough may have improved this somewhat if included in a similar fashion to the daily challenges.
Although a much bigger task which would include a lot more development time to get it running, my other personal recommendation would be the inclusion of a ‘create your own’ mode where you can design a map and decide what stations appear, when they appear and how many lines the person completing the level would receive etc. The replayability of this game would increase tenfold and would be, in my opinion, an excellent way to develop the community of Mini Metro players.
With it’s fantastically simple artistic style and addictive gameplay, it is easy for me to recommend this game. I thoroughly enjoyed all it had to offer and the cities represented in this game were full of personality – something you have to play to truly understand. The three levels of difficulty, coupled with the daily challenge mode, means there is enough to get your teeth into for a short awhile or to dip back into after time away. I, for one, know I will be boarding this train again long after reviewing Mini Metro.
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Reviewed by Shaun Hughes on the Nintendo Switch, game provided by Radial Games.