Happy New Year, everyone! As we head into 2022, let’s start things off with something nice and relaxing. Well, or at least something that starts with the markings of something nice and relaxing, anyways.
Today, we’re looking at Dinosaur Polo Club’s Mini Metro, a simulation strategy game where you design train lines to connect an ever growing population to their destinations.
Mini Metro follows a very minimalist style. You start out each game with a few stations, indicated with simple shapes. You draw a bright line of a given color between stations and a little rectangle appears, picking up shapes and delivering them to their ideal shapes. Ambience plays in the background as soft sound effects play to people getting dropped off and new stations popping into existence. It’s simple and effective.
You make more lines. You connect a line into a circle for efficiency. Time passes by. When you reach Monday, you get an extra train car and can choose to take either an extra new line, a carriage to increase capacity on a pre-existing train or a tunnel/bridge. You’re going to need these upgrades to stay efficient.
As time passes, the map slowly expands and more symbols are added to the map, those simple sound effects turning into a cacophony of Noise like an actual bustling station. Okay, there’s a whole bunch of people wanting to go to square and there’s only one square station, so gotta connect all the lines up to that or to layovers… Oh, there’s a cross station now? Dang, this line is going to get busier and… hey, when did things get so busy?
For you see, you fool, the number of people wanting to ride on a cool train is skyrocketing. Suddenly, your train system doesn’t seem like hot shit. Sure, maybe making one really long train line seemed like a good idea at the time, but it becomes terribly impractical, because a train will make a stop at every station down the line if there’s still room to pick someone off or if there’s anyone to drop off. So maybe you’ll try to split things up between lines to share the burden, whilst being careful to not be overly reliant on layover stations so that that station doesn’t become overburdened itself. Maybe you can have one particular line shoulder everything while giving it extra train cars and carriages to keep up with demand. Whatever the case, you need to figure out an efficient system to keep up with demand.
But unless you’re playing on Endless (which lets you build forever) or Creative (which lets you place stations too), a station will get overburdened, eventually. When too many people are waiting at one station, you get a timer, and when time’s up you lose. Yeah, the whole train system gets shut down over this one station, I guess. Probably so they can privatize public transport or something.
To ease you along, you can change the speed the game runs and you can also pause it to give yourself a breather. Also, unlike real life trains, you can easily drag and adjust the lines, and while a train will still follow its original path until it loops around, you can easily pivot how your train lines are set up at any time.
Now, you’re not just making train lines out of nothing. Mini Metro provides real-life locations that have their own public transit systems. Theoretically, you could bust out a map of one of these systems to figure out an optimal transit system, but that’s a strategy for cowards.
The city levels aren’t cosmetic, either, because the levels have different modifiers. Typically, when tunnels/bridges are offered as a weekly offer, it gives 2. However, the Berlin level only gives 1, and given that stations can appear on three different landmasses, it becomes rather limiting. Along the usual offerings, Japan’s level also offers bullet trains that are much faster than the normal train carts – and you will need them, because the level gets real busy real quick.
For the most part, Mini Metro is a relaxing time. However, if you’re a try-hard that chases pointless glory like me, there’s some really hard achievements to get in this game. You’ll need to be bring out your inner city planner to even get close to one of these. It’s 1.0% for a reason.
However, if you’re just a casual player that’s not chasing after pointless goals, Mini Metro’s an excellent time. If you’re looking for more to the core experience, though, I’m happy to say that Dinosaur Polo Club came out with a follow-up, Mini Metroways, last year, which I hope to give a look at in the future.