Mini Metro gives your brain that same kind of satisfaction and good feel as watching videos on YouTube called something like “Try Not To Get Satisfied While Watching This!” Just that amazing feeling of watching something work like it should, a finely tuned and precise piece of machinery doing something just right, working like clockwork. It’s made even better by the fact that you're watching something that YOU did. You put these trains in motion, you connected these stations, and it just feels good to see.
And then a new station pops up somewhere weird and oh, dear god no, it’s across the river and you’re all out of tunnels. You see passengers piling up, but you’re trying to reroute your entire system to just fit this this new station that idiotically decided to appear. No, please wait, I had such a good system going! No no no, my loops! I'll have to cancel all of them, hold on just one more second I’ll add an extra car here to make it easier and run faster. No, it’s failing! Nooooo!
Yeah, you oscillate pretty heavily between that, and that’s a big part of what makes Mini Metro work so well too. You’ll have a system giving you those sweet, sweet endorphins as you watch your train cars roll around. Sometimes, new stations pop up, but for the most part you can add them in without too much issue. Sometimes they even pop up on a path that was already there, which feels even better – you sort of feel like you anticipated that, and your metro system is just so good that it already has it covered.
But then one station pops up and your heart sinks because you realize that it’s just not going to work, and you look back and see what now feel like mistakes piled on top of each other. Why didn’t you leave enough wiggle room to make sure that this would all fit together? Why did you make this part cross a river when it never needed to? This line’s just four triangle stations in a big square, what on earth made you think that was a good idea? So, as your system is running, you have to quickly remake huge chunks of it. You get it done and sit back, feeling like a genius again, knowing THIS time no problems will arise!
Mini Metro takes the ideas present in city simulators and boils it down to a pure, simple and clean essence. You don’t have to worry about things like budgets - there’s very few resources to worry about - and none of those bigger picture considerations. You just have to get the people from one shape to another and use your colorful lines to do it.
The simple UI helps with this greatly, though in my experience it did make starting out a little difficult – there's so little going on here visually that I wound up having absolutely no idea what I was doing, and went and searched out a YouTube tutorial to get me going. Maybe I missed it or sped through it, but it still only took about a couple of minutes to get to know the ins and outs of making a metro. Making a GOOD one, well, I’ll let you know when I figure that one out for sure.
The maps the game gives you are based on layouts of cities with well-known metro systems, like New York and London, but the stops themselves are randomly generated. It really is a better way to go than to have it be completely based on a real locations because now the game gives you the challenge (e.g. this place has like five rivers!) and you have to deal with it in a more dynamic manner. Can’t just study a real map and know what to do!
There are three modes for each map: normal, endless, and extreme. In normal and extreme, the game is over when a station gets overloaded for too long, but the difference in extreme is that when you connect a station, the track is then permanent, you can’t undo it. Extreme maps also have to be unlocked by doing a specific thing in their normal mode, like moving 1000 passengers before you fail or using only one bridge. You need to really prove yourself before you can even take a swing at extreme difficulty. You can’t fail in endless mode, so it’s a good space to really get practice for the basics of designing a working system. Endless is all about efficiency, and seeing how many people you can get travelling your system in one day. You could just make one giant railway that connects all the stations, for example, and not worry about timing out, but that’s not really gonna get you anywhere.
Mini Metro’s greatest weakness is definitely playing it with a controller. The game does as much as it can to help, but sometimes there’s just too much happening, and the little cursor is too sticky. I couldn’t really even get a good handle on how to erase lines to remake parts of a track, so I played almost exclusively with touch screen in undocked mode.
Mini Metro is a really good game for unwinding, even with the more challenging modes and moments of high stress that pop when a poorly placed station suddenly appears. In a way, it’s a sim-without-the-sim, and a management game about managing very little. The UI is crisp and clean, the gameplay satisfying, and while the game doesn’t really do much to motivate you to keep playing aside from going “hey, beat your high score!”, it’s fun enough that you’re going to fire it up to try and make a longer lasting and more efficient metro line anyways.