While Dinosaur Polo Club’s Mini Metro – the minimalistic subway building game – has been available for PC via the Steam gaming portal for some time now, it’s only just been ported to mobile devices in the last couple of weeks. Always on the lookout for a fun little game to while away my commute to work, I picked it up for my iPhone almost immediately. Really, how could someone who runs a blog called Transit Maps resist this one?
At its heart, the game is incredibly simple: connect the differently-shaped station symbols with subway lines to move as many little “commuters” to their desired destination as possible before overcrowding forces your system to grind to a horrible, WMATA-esque halt. Square commuters want to go to a square station, circles to circles and so on.
Where Mini Metro really shines is in the superb execution of that simple concept. The subway map aesthetic is quite lovely, and the look of each of the different playable maps is tweaked slightly to match that city’s actual subway map. For example, New York is presented against a geographical backdrop, while the background for Paris is just the right shade of beige. In my opinion, Montreal should always be played in the game’s reduced-contrast “night mode” for the properly authentic look, as seen above.
The pitch-perfect look to the game is augmented by the lovely sound design, which uses the whirring of little train engines, the satisfied pings of commuters arriving at their destination and the warning chimes of overcrowded stations to build a dreamy, immersive soundscape that’s definitely an integral part of the gameplay.
The game works quite well with the touch interface of an iPhone: dragging out new routes with your finger is intuitive and fun. Deleting sections of track or performing major rerouting can be a little trickier at first, but I soon got the hang of it.
I only have an iPhone 5, so the small screen can make things a bit fiddly when there are lots of lines and stations. You can pinch to zoom to get in closer, but this sometimes accidentally reroutes tracks if you’re not careful where you put your fingers! Pause the game to make major adjustments and you should be fine. Larger screens on newer phones and tablets should run into this problem less often. Cleverly, the game almost imperceptibly zooms out as the game progresses, so you never see more of the map than you need at the time.
The game comes with 13 playable maps: earn a high enough score on the first few maps and you can unlock new cities to play. The differences between the cities aren’t just aesthetic: there are city-specific nuances in gameplay as well. Some cities offer different upgrades to your infrastructure, while others present their own unique challenges. I don’t want to give too much away here and spoil all the fun, but it is definitely worth playing to unlock all the different cities: everyone will have their own favourite city that suits their playing style. Personally, I particularly like Melbourne and Osaka, while I find Cairo quite maddening. There’s also a “Hardcore” mode, where any track you lay down is permanent – no do-overs!
Average game time for me at the moment is 15 to 20 minutes per game, which is perfect for whiling away a bus or train ride to work. This isn’t a deep simulation like SimCity or Cities in Motion, it’s a fun little strategic puzzle game dressed up like a subway map. It looks great, sounds great, and is a lot of fun to play. Highly recommended!
Price for the phone/tablet version: $4.99 for the whole game. No ads, no micro-transactions. That’s less than the price of a Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, and a whole lot more fun!
Castell de Montjuïc in Barcelona was an exceptional part of my trip. You take the metro to the funicular, the funicular to the telefèric, then the telefèric to the top of the mountain. The telefèric, or cable car, ride is just breathtaking. You can see all of the city and out to the Mediterranean sea! Then, the castle is only 3E and you have wonderful views from the top as well as a cool military fortress from the 1640′s to wander around and explore. Pretty wildflowers and cyprus trees, old military canons, a stray cat, fellow tourists taking photographs. It was a pretty serene (and windy) afternoon, and I’m so glad I made it part of my plans.