My first GOG styled review.
You probably won’t notice anything different outside of the review not being on my Steam profile. I also won’t have a link to the review on GOG’s site because they don’t support linking to individual reviews or even editing it afterwards. Which is slightly annoying but I’m hoping they’ll eventually update that sort of functionality in. Before you ask: No, this doesn’t mean I’ll be doing reviews on old titles. There are far better reviewers out there for that type of work than I.
A Paladin’s GOG Review: Mini Metro. It’s About Connecting Shapes Together and Hoping for The Best.
- Genre: Puzzle Light Simulation/Strategy Game.
- Developed & Published by: Dinosaur Polo Club.
- Platform: Windows, Mac and Linux.
- Business Model: Base Game
- Copy Purchased by Myself
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
Mini Metro is a minimalist simulation game about designing an efficient metro system to keep up with the passenger demands as long as possible. What you’re surviving against is a somewhat cruel RNG system and a constantly building pressure. As the level progresses along, more passengers will come in and your system will be stressed until a station stays overcrowded for too long. All you as a player can do is build metro lines, by connecting them to other stations, select the weekly upgrade you desire and watch as trains deliver passengers to their destination. Stations pop up at random times and in random places. Tracks and trains can be moved around as needed but the player otherwise has limited control over them. “Losing” is expected in Mini Metro, it’s just a question of when.
There’s eleven levels, daily challenges and three main modes to play with in Mini Metro. Daily challenges take existing modes and give players one shot to get the highest score possible. As far as the developer involvement post release is concerned, Mini Metro has received multiple bug fixes and maintenance updates. However, they haven’t indicated whether they’ll be adding new content in 2016 or beyond. I expect that this game was shipped to be feature complete.
There’s three modes of play on the eleven levels. Each level is named after a major city that exists in the world today. Normal, the standard mode, is where you can’t let stations overcrowd for too long or you’ll fail. There’s Endless Mode, which let’s you play the level forever, rewarding you for creating the most efficient train lines. Efficiency is counted by the rate of passengers being delivered on a daily basis. It’s probably my favorite mode of the three because it’s more along the lines of what I was thinking this game was about when I first saw the sales pitch. It lets you tweak your metro setup as efficiently as possible without having to worry about the RNG completely ruining your progress. It is the easiest mode though as you can’t really fail. Just fail to get upgrades for achieving efficiency goals. If normal and endless are too easy for you, there’s Extreme mode which is Normal Mode’s rules with track building being permanent. It’s brutal and a few mistakes in your track building will spell your doom. It’s my least favorite mode because stations can often spawn in awkward places where you can’t build/adjust your track to them. Often leading to some quick game overs. Still, it’s there if you really want the challenge.
Every week the player will be given another train and a choice between two randomly selected upgrades. I can’t really give a good suggestion on which upgrade you should choose other than make sure you have extras of tunnels/bridges at all times just in case. These upgrades include more train lines, coaches, fast trains (on some levels), more bridges/tunnels and interchanges. Coaches can be connected to currently running trains to expand their passenger capacity by 6 (or 4 on the Cairo level). Interchange stations expand how many waiting passengers a station can hold before it’s considered overfilled. The interchange upgrades tend to be very rare so you’ll need to place them carefully. During the course of the level, you’ll need to pay attention to how the level is expanding itself and get upgrades that will best suit that efficiency goal. That being said, sometimes you won’t get the upgrade you need and there won’t be much you can do about it. I often found that the game was often skimped on providing more tunnels, which was very annoying to deal with.
You get three stations to begin with and more will pop up over time in random locations at random times. They might even sometimes upgrade existing stations or existing track. Each station is its own shape. The most common shapes are circles, triangles and squares. Generally, every line you create should be connected to at least one of these. There are special shapes like stars and diamonds that can appear from time to time. Usually, only one of its kind will appear on a level, so you’ll need to have a way for all lines to deliver passengers to them. I found that it was usually one area that had all the special shapes as well. As the level progresses, stations will start cropping up on the other side of the river/lake in the level and you have to start building around that as well. Then towards the mid/late level, things get hectic and a slowdown in a line can pretty much doom you.
It’s all about getting the highest score possible before a station(s) is overcrowded. There isn’t any way to avoid “failing” or ending the level. Sometimes, you’ll have failed to get a high score because you screwed up your track design. Other times, it’s because the RNG system got the last laugh and you didn’t get the weekly bonus you needed, three times in a row. For me, it’s a lot of why this game isn’t that interesting after five hours or so. Far too much is decided by random chance and there are simply playthroughs where you’ll lose only a few weeks in. Endless mode fixes some of this gripe but not all of it.
Variety or Lackthereof
When I first saw Mini Metro, I had a pretty good feeling I wasn’t going to like it for long. I figured I might get a few hours of enjoyment but then start to see the cracks in the design and get fed up with it. That’s pretty much how my experience played out too. Mostly it’s because the game is just a little too simplistic and a little too dependent upon RNG. Furthermore, I found that the levels don’t do much to set themselves apart. Each level does have a different name and a different kind of water obstacle, but it’s all the same setup and going through the motions. The mechanics only go through slight changes and increasing the overall difficulty as you progress through the levels.
The levels themselves largely play out the same. It’s the same connecting of stations together as efficiently as possible until the RNG finally gets the upper hand. Once you’ve got a handle on the different mechanics, there’s not much you can do to change your strategy. As far as I have been able to find online, there’s really one strategy that works. Building circular train lines is it. Building straight lines is simply less efficient and there’s not much else you can do to change it up. There is some tweaking and pulling you can do to deliver passengers and prevent buildups from occurring and in the mid-game it was definitely enjoyable. So, I always turned on the fast forward function for about 15 minutes just so I could get to the more interesting part of the level. But playing the boring early game just to enjoy 15 minutes of strategizing before my setup eventually gets crushed in the late game is fun only so many times. About five to eight hours worth of fun really.
Being a minimalist title, Mini Metro doesn’t need a lot of settings to work but the more the merrier. Resolution support seems to cover the standards. Fullscreen, transition skip and colorblind mode can be switched on or off. One big kudos to these devs is the inclusion of night mode. It’s kind of annoying how many minimalist titles like Mini Metro forget that games are sometimes played at night. Not being blinded by the pure white light of the background was a refreshing change of pace. Audio can only be turned on or off, there are no individual sliders. AA, V-sync and other options aren’t included (though V-Sync does seem to be on).
I did enjoy aspects of Mini Metro and its design. It’s a cleanly executed idea that I think achieves what it sets out to do. I did enjoy it for the first four or five hours but I did get tired of it after a while. Which is due to the very light amount of mechanics that can be pretty easily figured out and the game being far too dependent upon RNG to make things challenging. I think the endless mode is probably the more enjoyable mode and more along what I felt this game should have been about. Still, all things considered it’s a nice enough casual simulation title. Just don’t expect too much from it and enjoy.
Thanks for reading as always!