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Mini Motorways is a title we have been following for a little while, and it was featured during this past week’s Indie World Showcase. Surprisingly, it released on the day, and Dinosaur Polo Club were kind enough to send us a review code. Well, this one is fantastic, and it is hard to hold that back before I even get into why.
So is Mini Motorways worth getting behind the wheel? The answer is yes, but if you need further convincing, continue on!
Mini Motorways is a unique puzzle title that gives you almost a Sim City-level of control over a city’s road construction. As you play, buildings will pop up, and businesses need accessible roads for their people to traverse to their destination without a problem, and this is signified by color. Blue buildings need to connect to blue businesses, and yellow buildings need to connect to yellow businesses. As more colors are introduced, more complications will happen, as traffic and the flow of cars will be affected by the connections you make.
The game also functions on a weekly schedule, and at the end of each week, you will be given a choice between two specialty pieces and more roads. Special parts are things like motorways, roundabouts, bridges, and traffic lights to help break up the traffic and get the increase in flow. Time can also be slowed down, even to a halt, and it can be sped up fairly fast as well. This is a great set up for the game, as it keeps your attention, lets you think and play creatively, and also gives you the ability to pause and think before you make further moves.
As easily as roads can be made, they can also be deconstructed in Mini Motorways to fix roads and create better pathways. As you progress on one of the 14 maps, more will be thrown at you, as the difficulty increases over time. This also means that each map has its own online leaderboards that shows you your position, the top players, and even where you rank on a scale. This is a really cool feature that serves to motivate and inspire without making you feel like you are terrible at the game.
Gameplay in Mini Motorways consists of businesses receiving pins, and you achieve the pin if a car of the same color reaches that destination. As you progress, demand increases, and things simply get more challenging. You begin to struggle with resources, especially special parts, and if a business maxes out in pin demands, a timer hovers over the business. If the timer wheel fills all the way up, this is game over.
I found this gameplay method entrancing, because Mini Motorways provides a complex puzzle experience with lots of flexibility, which only means a failure is due to your poor planning. And thanks to the gentle increase in demand, learning how to play the game better and better just takes time and a better grasp of road construction. It is in that latter point that I fell in love with Mini Motorways the most, because this game has shown me just how complicated and stressful road design and management is. When a puzzle game can elicit empathy for a job that I never thought too hard about, that is a huge success in and of itself.
Each map is also a specific world location, like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Munich, Rio, and Dubai, just to name a few, and it is such a nice touch that the native languages are used on the rivers and such. This helps to not only show that you are working on roads on a different map but also in a real area of the world with unique shaping and river placements, which shows the importance of bridges and how they are implemented as well.
The minimalistic graphics used in Mini Motorways is one area of difficulty that I think needs some tweaking. Although the colors pop very well and seeing the ebb and flow of traffic is quite satisfying, it is difficult to see your built roads on certain maps, and the easiest way to help with that is to hold down the B button (Which deletes), as it darkens the screen and helps to identify the lines better. Granted, this affects some maps more than others, especially if the terrain is of a similar color to the roads (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles!), but it is a slight annoyance when playing on those maps.
The music and sound effects are exactly what you would expect from a puzzle title. They are relaxing and peaceful, and yet somehow Mini Motorways even notifies you of an impending game over in a chill way. At no point in my time playing did I ever feel stressed out even if the game could easily illicit stress due to its complicated situations. It is thanks to the calming sounds that help to create an environment that is both challenging yet soft.
One area of Mini Motorways that I found particularly interesting, especially if you make it very far in a stage, is the strategy of deleting special parts and road pieces to relocate them to areas that need more attention. In a real-world sense, this is obviously a ludicrous proposal, but in Mini Motorways it is a solid strategy that can genuinely save your run. It is also things like this that make the game such an awesome overall experience.
Mini Motorways is an absolutely amazing puzzle game. It is unique in its design, and it also provides a solid challenge without stressing you out. The minimalistic graphics are so pretty, even if some Los Angeles stages are hard to see, and the sound design is exquisite. There are even more ways to enjoy the game like fun alternatives to some maps and daily and weekly challenges. This is the best puzzle game I have played since Sokobond, and it is one that I will continually be going back to and try to improve my scores.
Some times a game is just fantastic, and all you can do is recommend the hell out of it. Mini Motorways is that, and if you are a fan of puzzle titles, buy this one right now! It is perfectly at home on the Nintendo Switch.
Fantastic puzzle mechanics
Lovely minimalistic graphics and color schemes
Excellent sound design
So many unique world maps
Los Angeles map is hard to see roads
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.