IndieCade 2014: Mini Metro is Mega Fun

I live in a part of Los Angeles county that is right near an extension of a light rail line that’s being built as we speak. Scheduled to open in 2015, it’s actually a great way for me to get to crowded places. Staples Center, or Little Tokyo, or Chinatown, I prefer rail lines. But quite frankly, they could be a lot better. For a variety of municipal, historical and social reasons, the rail kind of sucks here in LA. But what if it could be better? What if the rail lines were different and more efficient? Could you do better?

Mini Metro is a simple game to learn. You need to connect different rail stations with rail lines. Each station is a certain shape, like a square, circle, or triangle. Passengers will line up at each station, and they are also shapes. They shape they are determines the type of station they want to go to. A square passenger at a circle station just needs to be picked up and taken to any square station. If too many people are waiting at a station for too long, you lose. That’s the game. There is, though, an alternate mode where you don’t get a game over if things back up, and you are scored based on the overall efficiency of your rail system.

So it’s up to you. When you start, you have three stations. Is it best to make one circular rail line to start, and put all your train cars on it? What about 3 lines for each of the three possible connections? As the game continues, more and more stations will pop up, and they’ll need to be connected to a rail line, lest the fill up with impatient fare-payers with nowhere to go. In addition to the 3 shapes listed above, you might run into a diamond, or a cross. You’ll only have one of those, so hopefully you have an efficient way to get there from any station. The game’s logic takes care of transfers, in case the line a passenger is on doesn’t go right to the station they want. However, that means the passenger will be dropped off at that transfer station, and add to the queue of impatient riders. If you need to, you can simply drag and drop to move cars from one rail line to another. You can also change rail routes, adding or removing stations to a route in real time. The only thing you can’t do is have two lines cross at a point which isn’t a train station. You’ll earn additional locomotives as a game progresses, along with the ability to lengthen train cars to carry more passengers, or to build additional tunnels or bridges over normally impassable terrain.

What I’ve said above is the entirety of the game’s rules. What I like a lot about this game, other than that I’m kind of a rail nut and that this appeals to me, is that the game makes no effort to tell you what the best strategy is; you have to find out for yourself. You can see in real time whether a strategy you’re trying is working or not. It’s easy to grasp the kind of resource management you have to do. How many stations can you put on a line before it’s inefficient? When should you break a single line into two lines? The problems will come up organically and have to be solved organically. In a world where games love to handhold, this game has NONE and I love it.

The game is currently in beta, and the big omission right now is sound. The game has none. That’s going to be fixed eventually, but this game hasn’t fully released yet.

Mini Metro is a Steam Early Access game and costs $6.99.

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