The 18th annual Independent Games Festival is taking place on March 14th – 18th in San Francisco, this festival recognizes and celebrates all that is good within independent games development and hopefully brings some major exposure to these smaller titles amd studios. Some previous winners that have gone to bigger and better things include Papers Please, Fez, Braid and of course the biggest of them all Minecraft.
Over the upcoming few weeks leading up to the festival, we will be looking at some of the games that have been recognized as some of the best indie games of the past 12 months and been chosen for some of these awards. To start this off we are going to take a look at Mini Metro, by Dinosaur Polo Club. Mini Metro first came to my attention while I was catching up on YouTube videos and this quirky, clean, minimalistic puzzle game jumped right at me, this my type of game. An endless, simplistic, easy to play, hard to master puzzle where the idea is that you design the new subway to link all the stations in a given city. You think, yeah dead easy, just join the stations together with a coloured line and away you go…not quite.
You start with 3 stations and 2 different lines you can place down. To place a line down, you simply click and drag where you want to start, which stations to go through and where you finish. Where the line ends there becomes a T-Junction, if you want to extend the line when new stations appear you click onto there and drag the line to its new destination. The game is as basic as that, nothing flashy, nothing difficult to understand, a game anyone can play.
New stations pop up every so often, so you have choices, do you extend the original line to this new station or do you start a completely new train line? Each station is designated a symbol, you start off with basic shapes, square, triangle and circle, these designate where the passengers intend to go, i.e. a triangle passenger is going to a triangle station. About 8-10 minutes in though, different station shapes will appear, a cross, a leaf, a star, some of your original stations can also change to these new shapes just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons. You have to keep thinking on the fly, keep moving lines, changing trains onto different lines as stations get overcrowded. It’s micro-management at its purest and most rewarding form.
One feature that I fully embraced is the option to switch between day and night mode. What this does is that it switches the bright, white background for a completely black background. More and more games/mobile apps are having this option, especially with the rise of young people with Irlen Syndrome, and with this being ported to iOS and Android devices in the very near future this option is also great if you are playing in bed or in a very brightly lit environment.
A neat little feature is the ability to pause. Yes, this is something that you can do in 99% of games, but having this ability gives you time to look at the layout of your subway and answer many questions, for example, where are passengers gathering? Can you get from 1 corner of the map to the opposite easily? There is only 1 cross station, can I get to it from all lines? This breathing time will be the difference between your subway lasting 10 minutes or 20 minutes. As you progress through the different cities, you will encounter the biggest obstacle in the game, water. You can overcome this, but you need resources and here is where your decisions will either make you or break you.
When you have survived a week on the subway, you get given some resources for your disposal. You always get an extra train to which you can put onto any line at any time, aswell as a choice of 2 different options. These will vary from extra coloured tracks, extra bridges/tunnels, or extra carriages or your trains. Each resource is vital in it’s own way, you can’t open a new track without a train, you can’t cross a river without a bridge or tunnel, so your management of these will go a long way to determining your success.
It’s the little touches in this game that has kept me coming back for more, for example, the trains vary dependent on country, i.e. Cairo has smaller trains, Osaka has faster trains, Paris has lots of stations all closely compact to each other, New York has stations all over the place, so your lines seem to go forever. Mini Metro always gives you that sense that you can do better next time. Never has something so simple been so frustrating, complex, panic inducing and most importantly fun. The music is soothing, the beeps and bops give you a feeling of security when all around you is falling apart as 3 stations have 15 passengers at and your game is about to end.
You will struggle to find a negative view of this game and you won’t find one here either. A beautifully enjoyable game, which brings an amazing amount of stress to a simplistic world. A definite game for me and, at only £5.94 on Steam, an ideal game for time wasting, relaxing and panicking all at the same time.
+ The minimalistic design enhances the experience
+ Made for both PC and mobile devices
+ Daily challenges
+ Endless and Extreme mode, for relaxing and panicking
– Would like to see some extra challenges