I’ll be honest from the get-go here: when it’s done well, there’s few things I love more than minimalism. Whether in art, games, or even interior design, I definitely hold that less is more — so long as it’s the right kind of less. This isn’t stripping out features to leave a half-formed product, but addition by subtraction, where unnecessary elements are carved out to leave a complete, unencumbered product. When I come across a game like Mini Metro that does this, and does it well, it makes me happy in a way that many more feature-packed, exciting games simply cannot, because I’m too overstimulated by their presentation to really, honestly enjoy any particular piece of them.
So, what exactly is Mini Metro, you ask? It’s essentially the simplest, most boiled-down sim game I’ve ever played. You’re tasked with creating and managing a city metro system, connecting stations with lines, allocating engines and carriages, and making sure that everyone who wants to ride the rails can get to where they’d like to be in a timely manner. You’re given three different resources: lines, cars, and bridges/tunnels (depending on the map). Stations are automatically populating, meaning you’ll have to shift your strategy on the fly to keep up as new ones appear, either incorporating them into existing lines and risking overextension, or setting up new ones that may not hit all the station types. Each station type is denoted with a geometric shape; thankfully, passengers only seem to care about getting to the right type, and not particular stations.
Beyond the basic mechanics, there’s not a lot to delve into in Mini Metro. The simple, clean aesthetic and design keeps things moving, and while my first attempt was a flailing bout of confusion and uncertainty, it didn’t take long to really get a handle on what I needed to work on in order to improve. As you work on your routes, time keeps moving forward; each week, you gain a new locomotive and a second bonus from two options presented from either carriages, lines, or tunnels/bridges. Managing these is the key to success, since all of the elements play into each other nicely — you can’t open a new line without any trains to run on it, you can’t connect a station across a river without a bridge or tunnel, and so forth. It all flows very nicely, as long as you’re mindful of what resources you need at the start of any given week.
All of this being said, Mini Metro is still, at this time, in a pretty early form — there are a few pieces missing from the whole puzzle, but the team at Dinosaur Polo Club admit them and say they’re working on it. There’s no backing music to speak of, and the majority of the setting options aren’t open for play just yet while the developers work out kinks like “most maps generate roughly the same” and other quirks that, while not debilitating, do keep the game from being everything that it could be. As long as these get ironed out, though – and I’m confident they will – then this little, bare-bones gem could easily be a staple for fans of sim games (or minimalism) for a long time. Mini Metro is available now for $6.99 via Steam early access.