Mini Metro is a good game. Interesting mechanic, simple but with (I suspect) a decent amount of depth, and (at least on the iPad) an interface that works extremely well with the gameplay.

Super Mario Run is also a good game. Despite being a one-button game, it is unquestionably a Mario game; and the levels are interesting enough the first time, and have two separate mechanics (the colored coins, the “compete against ghosts” mode) that encourage you to really master those levels.

I’m not currently playing either game, however, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like either of them quite enough to compete with my gameplay time? (Possibly true for Super Mario Run; Mini Metro seems like it should make the bar, though.) Maybe I’m not spending quite as much time playing games as I used to? (I’m actually not sure if that later statement is true or not; I certainly spent enough time on Tokyo Mirage Sessions, though…) Maybe I don’t like clean little games as much as I would like to pretend I do? (But I spent a lot of time playing Imbroglio last summer.) And: why am I still doing various Conceptis puzzle games (Fill-a-Pix in particular), when Mini Metro seems like it could plausibly be as evergreen? (I was also still playing Love Live for a long time, even though I think it’s a much worse game than Mini Metro, but that’s a very different game, and one which has very low-weight “return every day for 30 seconds” mechanisms.)


Comparing Mini Metro to Imbroglio, the latter game had the advantage that it gave me staged challenges to learn the game. I’d try out a new character, introducing not just a new ability but also unlocking new weapons; I’d work to get a score of 128 with that character, while getting a feel for the new weapons and designing a board of my own; I’d then try to push my board further, refining it in the process; and then I’d move on to another character. So I always had something relatively concrete to learn, and something that wasn’t a big step from what I’d been doing before: it’s designed to actively support deliberate practice. With Mini Metro, in contrast, there aren’t the same small steps: it’s easy to unlock all the cities, the differences between the cities don’t seem significant enough (at least at my skill level) to make me feel like I’m learning from the different cities in the same way I was learning even from the different character abilities in Imbroglio, let alone the weapons. So I instead have to set a challenge of getting a certain number of passengers; that is indeed a challenge, but it doesn’t have the same scaffolding.

Which isn’t a bad thing: it’s no more scaffolding than Flight Control HD had, and I loved that game. I think the other thing that’s going on with Mini Metro is the play sessions: they require you to concentrate and be ready to respond, not with the same level of constant attention as Flight Control but for a longer duration, maybe 10 minutes or even 15?

And that’s not a bad thing at all, either: I think the game does a real balance between giving you time to think and consider the bigger picture while forcing you to make decisions regularly. So I really appreciate that. But, at the same time: that length means that it can’t fit into quite as small chunks of time as some games do; and the active nature means that it’s probably not the best game for me to play right before going to sleep, because it will be a little hard to go to sleep. Also, comparing it to the Conceptis games, it doesn’t feel right to pause Mini Metro (and I don’t even know if pausing is possible): a hard Fill-a-Pix board may take hours for me to solve, but I can spend those hours over multiple days.


So the upshot is: if I want to play Mini Metro for long enough for me to really get a feel for its depths, then I’ll have to commit to it: it’s not fighting with other iPad games for space, it’s fighting with narrative games for space. And it’s not quite managing to win that fight. Though, now that I think about that: Super Mario Run would fit into my iPad spaces. So that’s not the only thing going on there: I think the other issue is that, once a game qualifies as one that I want to spend time with in random iPad moments, then it can take up part of that space for quite a while, making it harder for competitors such as Super Mario Run to dislodge it.

At an rate: games I’m happy to have played. I may well even return to one or both; and, if not, they’ve at least taught me something about what I value spending time on in practice.

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