Information plays a significant part in our everyday lives. Disseminated in almost every conceivable way, people have access to data like never before. With the growth of the twenty four hour news cycle, real time financials, and social media, our lives are consumed by facts and figures. To play Metrico is to step into a world of visualized data, a TRON-like abstract consisting of pie charts, bar graphs and three dimensional geometric renderings of unknown figures. As a puzzle platformer, Metrico expects the player to think outside the box to advance. However, I honestly believe the game tries to be too clever for its own good. The lack of instruction and uncomfortable manipulation of the Vita turns the act of solving Metrico’s puzzles into a rather trying practice of patience.
Almost immediately, Metrico dazzles with its unique presentation and puzzle environment. Before the game proper begins, players are encouraged to connect to the PlayStation Network. My mind went towards wild possibilities. Given the game’s statistical flair, was I about to experience level design based primarily on data pulled from my progress and those of other players? So thrilled was I by the idea that I was less impressed by its actual implementation. Specifically, I wasn’t sure what purpose connecting to the PlayStation network served. Its only perceivable use is a pre-game gender selection screen and a choice between two exists at the very end of each stage. A large pie chart pops into existence that displays the percentage of those who chose one door against the other. If there is something else at work with PlayStation Network connectivity, I have yet to see it.
Metrico’s control system is worth discussing because of its uniqueness. Initially, the player is limited to jumping. Progression ultimately unlocks the ability to shoot projectiles and reset puzzles. Where the game goes wild is how the game applies the Vita’s gyroscopic mechanics. An entire level is dedicated to manipulating various platforms by tilting the machine across the X, Y and Z axis. Novel as it was, I felt this was the moment when things started to break down. Learning how to aim and shoot is one thing, a small thought bubble appears on screen and tells you what buttons to press, but there is very little direction for the gyroscope. Apart from a non-descript object consisting of three concentric circles that move based on how the machine is tilted, Metrico offers no direction, favoring a “trial and error” approach and for a greater part of the game, I experienced actual mental and physical discomfort. One puzzle in particular required me to turn the Vita upside down and run across the screen before a platform sealed off the exit. Bad enough that I have to turn the device in such a manner (there were times when I felt the Vita had some trouble keeping up with me), but to force my brain to think upside down for the controls made the whole affair rather unpleasant. The confusion extends to what should be a pretty clever usage of the Vita’s camera to manipulate the puzzle environment.
The game’s puzzles fall within the range of “pretty straightforward” to “how the hell was I supposed to figure that out?” I was consistently stuck for most of the game and not even Metrico’s ambient electronic score was enough to soothe my frustrated spirit. In fact, the soundtrack proved more often than not to be an instigator, as it constantly cycles through short music loops that drone incessantly until the room is cleared.
Without question, Metrico comes with a “cool” factor. It’s a game that uses the Vita’s numerous features to concoct a series of unique, mind bending and novel brain teasers. However, each system is partnered with its own set of problems and frustrations because the game offers very little help. Trial and error are one thing, but without proper support and guidance it is difficult to know what needs to be done. While I applaud Metrico for using the Vita’s various tools, it is a game I might not be fully comfortable playing at a park bench or bus ride. I can only imagine the puzzled looks I get as people see me twist the handheld in different directions. And when the game requires the camera, I had better be in an area with a good light source.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.