If you're a motorist in south west England, chances are you've probably encountered (or at least heard of) Swindon's Magic Roundabout. It's a monstrous concoction of five roundabouts smoshed together, and as far as I can see it serves no purpose other than to terrify bamboozled drivers up and down the country. I'm not kidding. In 2009 it was named the fourth scariest junction in Britain, after London's equally mega roundabout at Marble Arch, the M8 junctions in central Glasgow and Birmingham's Gravelly Hill, affectionately known as Spaghetti Junction.
It's the kind of nightmarish urban planning I try to avoid when building my own road networks in Mini Motorways, the excellent sequel to minimalist transport sim Mini Metro, but its new Challenge City update puts all four of these real-world asphalt atrocities to shame. In this new mode, each city gets a bunch of new rules and conditions you'll need to abide by, and after playing an early version of it this week, there's one challenge that's truly diabolical. Not only does it limit the number of road tiles at your disposal, but it does so in favour of, wait for it, unlimited roundabouts.
I feel for the drivers in Mini Motorways' little ant-like cars, I really do. Granted, the game's building regulations means you can't lump 5+ roundabouts all in the same space like Swindon's evil 'magic' one, but if I was at the wheel in one of these cities - see my Beijing attempt below - I think I'd just straight out leave my car where it was and get out and walk.
As traumatic as these roads must be to drive on, though, it sure is a lot of fun creating them while working within these new constraints. It's effectively a game-wide version of what's been going on over in Mini Motorways' daily and weekly challenges since launch, adding extra modifiers to the map to up the ante. At present, most cities have between one and three different challenges available (including its most recent addition of Wellington), and each challenge has between one and three conditions attached to it. These include things like straight roads requiring double the amount of road tiles to build (and vice versa with diagonal road tiles), or not being able to build over trees, for example, while others are more generous, giving you unlimited traffic lights or unlimited bridges. Naturally, the latter often come with some kind of drawback, such as turning all destinations into busy, circular skyscrapers, or enforcing a perpetual, never-ending rush hour. Or maybe you'll get double the amount of building tools at the end of each week, but they'll all be a complete mystery.
The list goes on. There are even some that ban you from using its titular motorways, such as Moscow's All About Intersections challenge, while others give you loads of motorways from the off, but halve the number of road tiles you're awarded each week. The important thing is that they're not just randomly assigned rules designed to make each city super difficult. Instead, each challenge has been specifically designed to suit the map in question, and it's definitely shaken up how I approach them.
The one I fear most is Dubai's Wild Card challenge, which gives you one of each upgrade at the start, but then makes all further weekly choices a mystery and throws the Unzoned rule into the mix, which means all houses and destinations can appear anywhere they damn well please. Those rough, colour-coded zoned neighbourhoods have always been an important crutch for me in the early hours of a regular Mini Motorways run, and the thought starting a new city at maximum chaos from the outset gives me the absolute shivers.
But I'm eager to try, and perhaps more importantly, see how my (so far) pitiful attempts compare to my fellow Mini Motorists, as each Challenge City mode comes with its own leaderboard just like the regular maps. Developers Dinosaur Polo Club have also revamped their colourblind options in this update, and will be adding new achievements and seasonal photo frames for the upcoming holiday season.
At time of writing, the free Challenge City update is still just 'coming soon' to Mini Motorways, but it's well worth a return journey if you already own it. Alternatively, if you've yet to experience the pleasures of this RPS Bestest Best, you can get ahead and grab it right now on Steam for £7.19 / €8.19 / $10.