By Graham Smith on March 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am.
Why are the trains in Britain always late? Here is one possible reason: efficiently connecting train routes is flipping hard. I only realised this while playing Mini Metro, a Ludum Dare entry turned alpha for a full game which arrived right on time when I needed something to play this weekend. It’s a neat strategy game, as visually clean as the finest tube maps, and currently freely available to play in your browser.
You begin Mini Metro with three unconnected stations and draw routes between them on new or existing trainlines. Gradually, more stations spring up that need to be connected to your system, and at the end of each week you select one from a set of possible upgrades such as unlocking new lines, new tunnels, or upgrading your trains. All the while, as your service grows, so do the number of people using it. When overcrowding shuts down a station, that’s when it’s game over.
I can get up to around 550 passengers before it all comes apart for me, like London on a strike day. There’s no penalty to removing and re-drawing your routes, and you can pause the game by clicking the clock in the top right corner, yet still I find that I’m defeated by a problem by the time I’ve noticed it’s happening. Imagine doing this in real life and having to work around buildings being in the way of your most efficient routes, or thousands of feet of soil.
Mini Metro is up on Steam Greenlight for those who want to give it a push down the tracks… towards the Steam train?
It’s a small thing, but I’ve had the tab open with the game running for the past 40 hours. I wish it had a zen mode with no failure state, which I could leave running forever and occasionally tend to, like an ant farm.
In any case, go have a play.