It took me a while to understand Mini Metro. I had played it a few times on PC, connecting stations without really grasping the mechanics. Even my first few attempts on iPad felt confusing. But then...it clicked.
Mini Metro isn't about subways or passengers. Look past the the metro aesthetic for a moment and you realize the game is a management puzzler. The thrill of Mini Metro is crafting an efficient network for transporting resources and then optimizing under pressure and tight limitations, like a calmer simpler take on the popular SpaceChem.
But don't ignore that beautifully minimalist aesthetic for too long. The game is a transit map brought to life, zooming out and out as each round progresses until your early collection of stations is a sprawling web of colored rails intersecting and crossing under bays. It's easy to understand visually and just as easy to manipulate, with simple dragging between stations to connect them, placing additional trains on lines, and holding on stations to disconnect them.
You'll need to do a lot of rail reconstruction to keep pace with Mini Metro's ever-growing number of stations. Each map, from London and New York City to Hong Kong and Cairo, begins with a few stations before expanding, challenging you to adapt to the influx of passengers. Certain shaped travelers can only be unloaded at same-shaped stations, and Mini Metro adds a collection of rules and limitations that turn railway building into a test of resource and space management.
Stations can only be connected to a finite amount of tracks. Bodies of water must be crossed with bridges and tunnels. An overcrowded station will end your game after 45 seconds. Within that framework, you must carefully consider your metro layout. Do you use a bridge here to unload passengers strategically? Opt for longer but fewer rails, or more short ones to pick up passengers faster? On which rail do you place your extra trains?
After each week, you are able to choose an upgrade, such as additional tunnels or longer carriages that allow for more passengers; these upgrades can completely change your strategy. Now, you can make that much-needed shortcut across the bay to handle a particularly crowded station and make your other lines more efficient.
It's this optimization under pressure, the need to adapt and adjust your wonderfully effective railways due to a new station or a new upgrade, that makes Mini Metro so surprisingly engaging.
Beyond Mini Metro's distinct city maps, you can truly test your skills in Extreme mode, which makes all your rail placements permanent, and in Daily challenges. While your early attempts as metro architect may be frustrating and confusing, the game's relaxing minimalist charm hides a challenging juggling act, that requires planning ahead and in the moment to keep everything moving smoothly.