I've only ever ridden the metro a handful of times in my life, and each time in a new city I'm visiting for the first time. This means I've spent a considerable time staring at colorful subway maps with subway intersecting at stations across the city. My hometown doesn't have a public metro so I've always appreciated the simplicity and order of a well-designed subway and all the careful planning that must have occurred to design such crucial infrastructure in a sprawling metropolis.
Overly sentimental? Perhaps. But those warm fuzzies have only grown stronger after spending time with Mini Metro, a brilliant mobile game that's part subway simulator and part puzzle game that tasks you with designing and operating your own metro system by draw lines between stations and managing trains.
Just like the maps the game is based on, the design of Mini Metro is clean and simple. You have the option of playing an endless game with a randomly generated map or play with a map based on a real-world city. Whichever you choose, you start out with three stations represented by shapes and three available subway lines. You connect two stations by drawing a line between them. Once the connections are made passengers start queuing up at each station, represented by smaller shapes showing which station they're trying to get to.
As time progresses in the game, new stations will pop up or change their symbol, forcing you to draw them into an existing subway line or start a new line. Just when you think you've got everything running smoothly, a new station may pop up that requires you to completely overhaul a section of your system.
Each phase of the game is played over the course of a week, which is tracked in the top-right corner. At the end of each week, you're given a new train along with your choice of upgrades which can include more tunnels for crossing waterways, an additional carriage for a train, a new metro line, or expanding the capacity and transfer speed of a station. Which upgrade you choose will depend on your strategy for expansion and your immediate needs for servicing your lines.
The trick is to make sure that your system is efficient enough to get everyone where they need to go. There's no limit to the number of lines that can intersect at a single station, however, if a station becomes overcrowded for too long it's game over.
This is one of those games that you can easily fall into a trance while playing, partially due to the subtle soundtrack which is created in-game as your trains travel and new passengers pop up. It's a really nice touch that rounds out the experience.
There's a surprising amount of depth to the game, and once you start playing it can be quite hard to stop. It's a real shame that Mini Metro was largely overlooked by the Android masses. Originally released for iOS, it was nominated for a number of awards, yet one year on from its release for Android and Mini Metro has yet to crack one million downloads. Part of that could be its pricy entry point, but if there was ever a mobile game worth spending $5 on it's Mini Metro.
It's a game perfectly designed to play on your daily commute or anytime you need to take a relaxing break from work.
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