It all started so well. Mini Motorways is the keenly awaited sequel to Mini Metro that tasks you with helping people get from their little colour-coded houses, to their little colour-coded workplaces using roads, roundabouts, traffic lights, bridges, tunnels and eventually – if you’re lucky – even the titular motorways themselves.
And I’m shit at it.
The clean aesthetic and simplicity-above-all approach will make it look immediately familiar to anyone that has played Mini Metro, and it makes your job – getting everyone to work and then home on time – look simple. But it isn’t. The network of roads is the circulatory system of the city, motorways forming the arteries while roads are the individual veins, crisscrossing about the place and getting people to their destination.
Over time, the cities get busier and the roads reach ever further outwards, but eventually each of their roads gets clogged-up by beeping traffic, and no amount of remedial roadwork will fix it. I try to build for this inevitable collapse from day one: I build big looping circuits that cars can drive around, with redundancies to ensure I can alter the layout later to keep things moving. And for a time, things are swell.
But, eventually, I notice a fever, the city – if we’re sticking with this slightly pained body metaphor – can’t sweat out, and no amount of work will stop it, as the cars get backed up from end to end across my entire grid system, honking their horns impatiently.
To commute in a city with me as a road planner is to embrace doom, and while the simple AI of the drivers in my city, in their adorable colour coded cars, doesn’t allow them to get out of their cars to riot across the city at how badly I’d set everything up, I can tell that’s what they want. It’s what I would want, and I’m the guy that built the whole thing.
Take a look at one of these early attempts: I’ve tried to keep the three different colours somewhat separate, with their own paths to work and home. There are roundabouts to ease congestion on the busier junctions. How could this ever go wrong?
Oh, I see. Motorways set up to directly to serve clusters of houses and try to keep the strain from the main motorway have turned into general-purpose routes as the neighbourhoods have expanded, and because the houses in the game can’t be moved, there’s no room to add pressure-relieving roads or roundabouts.
I am enjoying Mini Motorways a whole lot. I’m just not certain that the denizens of this – thankfully, fictional, city would say the same. Sorry, everyone.
Mini Motorways is out now on PC and Apple Arcade