Some people want to find and destroy chaos. Mni Motorways wants you to create and cultivate it, manage it carefully, and then watch it gradually fall apart thanks to a mistake made along the way.
Controlling traffic flow shouldn’t be half as fun as it is, but Dinosaur Polo’s clever take on minimalistic city building is brilliant and one of my favorite games of the year so far.
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Mini Motorways is a follow-up to Dinosaur Polo’s Mini Metro and shares some of the same foundation.
Your goal is getting cars to their destinations on time by creating an intricate set of infrastructure, including roads and traffic management, by placing road tiles on a grid, and you have to do it without knowledge of what’s getting built next. You receive a limited number of tiles each in-game week, along with special features such as bridges or roundabouts
Each map starts with one house and one store or workplace. A few more pop up as the seconds tick by. Then a handful more appear, until it becomes a steady stream of new demands on the roadworks you felt clever for building just two minutes earlier. In just a short time, it’s all a shambles — but it doesn’t have to be.
Try and Try Again
Well, technically it does. Dinosaur Polo’s algorithm works on the assumption that you’ll build an optimal network with few to no mistakes. However impossible that task is, Mini Motorways does a superb job of making you see it was your fault.
Maybe the whole thing was destined to explode anyway, but you can isolate the point where it happened — an intersection that needed a traffic light instead of a roundabout, for example — and file that away for next time.
Or not. One of Mini Motorways’ biggest strengths is letting you do whatever you want and seeing how it turns out. It might be a terrible idea, but it teaches you how the systems work anyway.
That freedom combined with limited road tiles and randomized rewards at the end of each week gives Mini Motorways its own sense of “just one more turn” that’s just as compelling as its big-city-builder counterparts.
That’s not even taking the weekly challenges with new objectives and obstacles into consideration either.
Use Your Eyes and Ears
Mini Motorways’ excellent presentation keeps all this from overwhelming you. The minimalist design means there’s hardly any clutter and no complicated UI to keep up with. It’s just your map (or mess).
The audio design from Disasterpeace is what makes coming back to Mini Motorways so easy, though. It’s almost an ASMR experience, with soothing, low-key sounds indicating new pins, houses, and businesses, plus a chilled-out soundtrack that only gets marginally more hectic as your city grows. Best of all, there’s a suite of accessibility options so more people can enjoy the game in comfort and ease.
Playing Mini Motorways is as much a chance to enjoy the game’s puzzles as it is an opportunity to unwind and refocus. I went into Mini Motorways expecting a fun and quirky puzzle game and ended up finding so much more. The Steam release is definitely not one to ignore.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Reviewed on PC via Steam.