Solving the mobility madness

The recent crossover update adds a soft amount of complexity to the ‘Motorways’ game, with train lines cutting across roads, sometimes slowing down the cars.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

CHENNAI: Unearthing a decade-old gem is always a nice surprise when I am looking for games to play every week. It’s even better when the game I find ends up earning the title of “best casual game” in my personal award show. This week, I discovered both ‘Mini Metro’ and ‘Mini Motorways’, because of the recent “crossover update” for their tenth anniversary. Perhaps it’s just my personal obsession with public transportation systems, but ‘Mini Metro’ allowing me to play God by setting up arbitrary train lines across cities is incredibly satisfying.

If there’s a single everlasting problem that I could happily dedicate my life to solving, it would involve managing chaotic transportation traffic. Having to construct a whole new train line because of congestion east of the Hudson River in New York City — now that’s a dream come true for me.

Let’s start with the gameplay basics. First up, ‘Mini Metro’. You start with an empty map of a real-world city. In London, the city looks overgrown and forlorn, with the Thames gently winding across its centre. A few stations emerge, each characterised by a different shape.

As time passes, a queue of passengers gathers in each of these stations. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves mapping out train lines to connect these stations and deliver passengers to their desired destinations. But be warned, speed is of the essence! Carriage availability is limited, and crossing the Thames through tunnels is expensive.

If trains are not your flavour of virtual city planning games, ‘Mini Motorways’ might be an easier entry. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are elaborate road systems and public infrastucture in ‘Motorways’. Here, we start with a humble village that we patiently help build into a congested metropolis. The game hinges on forming road connections between buildings. As the city expands, so does the intricate web of roads. The game’s pacing is so subtle that when I revisited my saved game after a three-hour break, I was surprised and rather proud of the thriving metropolis that had blossomed under my guidance. As I paused for a second to admire my handiwork, a poorly placed junction suddenly triggered a traffic jam of 50 cars with no escape route. Despite my city grinding to a halt, I took solace in the fact that during its short lifespan, I had facilitated the transportation of thousands of people — a significant improvement over my last attempt.

The recent crossover update adds a soft amount of complexity to the ‘Motorways’ game, with train lines cutting across roads, sometimes slowing down the cars. I enjoyed working out new strategies on the Mumbai and Lisbon versions of the update, like conveniently placing large flyovers linking far flung destinations! I’m quite keen on following along future updates to see if the developers integrate the two games in a more substantial way. However, between the two — I definitely found ‘Motorways’ more enjoyable than ‘Metro’. This is because ‘Motorways’ involves an additional element of actually drawing roads over a city grid, as opposed to just linking two railway stations with a straight line.

Given that I recently crossed level 2000 in Candy Crush Jelly, it’s almost agonising to discover the perfect casual puzzle series on road and railway transportation. So, I have done the unthinkable. ‘Candy Crush’ has been deleted. Replacing it is ‘Mini Metro’ and ‘Motorways’ which now reside on my Apple devices, with Apple Arcade seamlessly storing and updating my in-game progress in both. The games are currently also available for Android and iOS, PlayStation, PC and Nintendo Switch. If you’re quick, you might be able to snag the games with a great discount deal on the Steam Store!

Anusha Ganapathi

(This economics graduate spends her leisure time preparing for the zombie apocalypse)

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