November 9, 2015 1:40 AM | Lena LeRay
There's a very chill subway simulator out there called Mini Metro. It's been in early access for a while, but quietly snuck out into full release status a few days ago. The game has also acquired procedural sound by Disasterpeace since last I played it, as well as a number of small quality of life changes to its minimalist interface.
In Mini Metro, the player's goal is to build a subway and keep it running without problems for as long as possible. Every map is based on a real city and starts with three stops which the player must link to at least one train line. Each train stop has a shape, be it something basic and common like a circle or more complex and rare like a star, and each passenger will make their way to the nearest station of that shape. As more passengers are served, more stops will be built and the player will earn upgrades like new cars and lines with which to serve them.
Although the overall tone of the game is pretty relaxed and its interface is very intuitive, as the network grows it gets much harder to manage. Each station has a limited capacity, which can be increased only with the very rare interchange upgrade but must generally be managed through planning. A typical play of the game ends relatively quickly for a simulation game, though you can continue a failed game in endless mode.
The player always gets at least one new train when upgrade time rolls around, but then must choose one of two random options for a second upgrade, which can be something like an extra line or an extra carriage to add to an existing train. Since train lines can be rearranged in normal mode, the player will spend a lot of time juggling routes and connections to make it so that a passenger can hop on any train that passes by, especially since basic stations sometimes turn into rare ones.
In its final form, Mini Metro has a number of improvements over the early days of its early access. In addition to the aforementioned sound, which seems like plain ambient music until you realize that many of the notes correspond to passenger movements, there is now a daily challenge (which doesn't allow the player to move train lines or trains once placed, making it more challenging) and so many subtle improvements to the interface that I can't even remember what my gripes were when I first tried the game.
If you're looking for a low-key simulation game which is good for getting into a flow state but which won't necessarily steal six hours of your life before you realize it, Mini Metro is a good choice. It's available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux from Dinosaur Polo Club's web site, via Steam, or on Playism. The regular price is $9.99, but it's 10% off until November 13th.