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Games You May Have Missed: ‘Mini Metro’

‘You May Have Missed’ is a series of indie gaming recommendations from the Goomba Stomp Staff on underground masterpieces, hidden gems, or just games you may have missed.

Soothing sounds and clean, minimalist lines are what make up the zen transit simulator Mini Metro. At its core, Mini Metro is simply a game about creating mini maps of public transit in large metropolitan cities. You start with just a few stations, which connect with a bright and colorful track and then more pop up over time. The goal is to keep everything running smoothly even as the transit system balloons into dozens of stops and hundreds of riders. The game started out as a browser-based prototype in 2014, before eventually being fleshed out into a full-fledged PC game back in 2016, and then eventually making its way into the mobile market.

The main reason I love playing Mini Metro is the relaxing atmosphere. There’s nothing I enjoy more than coming home from work and relaxing with a cup of tea and playing a few maps of Mini Metro. I sound like a little old lady who enjoys puzzles and tea, which is true, except my puzzles are just in video game format on that dang computer box.

At times, things can be moving pretty slow and calm, with steady sounds and tasty beats, but before you know it things begin to get out of control, and you’re trying to remain cool and fix all of the problems nipping at your heels, and then there’s panic. Too many bodies, not enough trains to carry them where they want to go. A choice emerges: make a minor adjustment to my elaborate network, or hit pause, tear down every line and start over to try and remove the choke points where my little triangles and circles are probably tired and getting pissed off that the damn train is late again. But it’s too late: it’s all over. Too many triangles waited for too long.

The feeling of playing Mini Metro is partially created from the sounds of the game.There’s a fascinating interview on designingsound.org with the game’s sound designer, Rich Vreeland. If you’ve never played Mini Metro, I recommend watching the snippet below to get a feel for the game’s atmosphere.

The sound is heavily inspired by minimalism, composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and the film Dots by Norman McLaren. As Vreeland states in his interview about marrying sound and gameplay:

“From the outset I think we knew that a good audio design could supplement the user feedback system and help the player engage on a higher level. I also wanted the music to have a minimalistic, entrancing sort of quality. I think this desire came out of how the game made me feel when I played it. I kind of wanted to tap into that feeling further. One of the unexpected side effects of approaching the audio this way is that I think the music helps to actually counterbalance some of the stress the game can dole out. I find it to be a rather unique game, because of how [the game] can be very meditative to play but also quite stressful when your system starts to overload”.

Until Mini Metro came along, the assumption was that transportation games had to have a rich user interface with pictures of trains and cars and trees and so on. In fact, you can have a game that strips a problem down to its underlying structure, which is what a metro network is. Mini Metro imagines a city that is planned by someone else, or that grows haphazardly, where the transit system is totally reactive and you have to play catch up to the needs of the people. It’s a fascinating piece of modern life mirroring technology and vice versa: you can use a simple, minimalist game to simulate a bleeding-edge transport challenge with the entire possibility of riding a line that you’re also trying to replicate.

Why I recommend picking this particular game up is that I keep coming back to it. I’ve had this game in my Steam library since it was officially released in 2016, but I keep coming back again and again. When I’ve had a particularly stressful day or week, I start Mini Metro and just chill in the game’s pastoral composition.

Mini Metro, Developed by Dinosaur Polo Club is available on PC, iOS, and Android. 

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