Visually Impaired Game Review – Mini Metro

Christy Smith8 minute read

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This review is discussing the Switch version of the game. The game is also available on Google Play, Steam, PlayStation Store, and the Apple app store. 

Mini Metro is a very simple game that pops up metro “stations” of different shapes and asks you to draw metro lines to connect the stations. There are then passengers that are represented by the same shape of the station they need to reach. Your goal is to get the passengers to their destination without too many passengers waiting at a station for too long. Like many blind people, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about public transit, and this game let me prove that I could do it better.

About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long. I primarily play in handheld mode so I can hold the screen closer. I tend to play on my long commute with no sound because I need to keep my ears free to listen for my stop to be announced.

Visual Characteristics 3.5/6

(Contrast, Lighting, Tracking, Clutter)

Visually, this game is passable. The stations are small black shapes against a white, yellow, or black background. You can choose between white and black backgrounds, though while the black background may reduce eyestrain, the stations are still black with a thin white outline. You can get to the light/dark setting from the pause menu, in the upper right hand corner. There are colored metro lines, and the colors are high-contrast in the way a rainbow is high-contrast. The colors of the lines cannot be changed. The tracking and clutter are where the game struggles a bit. When the maps start getting more and more stations added, things get quite cluttered. Seeing the shape of the passenger dots is difficult at the best of times. When they are at a station waiting to board a train, they appear as miniature black shapes next to the station. When they board the train, they appear as lighter than the train color. Seeing the dots while they are on the train is probably unrealistic if you’re reading this review. However, you can choose your own strategy, and with careful planning, this need not be a significant hindrance.

Speaking of strategy, the strategy comes from the placement of your lines and the choices you make after each “week” of game time. Every so often, you’re given choices of new items to improve your metro system. These items include extra trains, extra train cars, extra bridges, or new station attributes like interchanges. To select these options, you select one of two icons that pop up for you. The icons are fairly straightforward, though there is text below the icons. The text is so small, I wouldn’t even recommend trying to read it. Just learn the icons. Or use the zoom function for the icons.

The image shows a screenshot of Mini Metro gameplay. A red, yellow, and blue line connect a variety of triangles, circles, and squares in a simulated city map showing white land and a blue river. The lines intersect at some of the shapes. Each line has a rectangular train traveling along it, holding smaller shapes. Photo credit, wiki images

Accessibility Features 2/6

The accessibility features don’t really exist here. Some things I’d like to see would include options to enlarge the tiny station and passenger icons and customizable rail line colors. However, the clock is the closest thing to an accessibility mode that there is. The clock can be made to run at double speed or stopped entirely, in additional to its normal mode. Stopping it entirely can give you time to erase all your lines and start from scratch if you realize you’ve left out a station or need to reconfigure. Since you can pause the clock, you can use the built-in zoom feature to check things visually. You have to turn it off to interact with the game, as usual, but if you want to check what shape the passengers are or if a station is on the correct track, it works just fine. It is fairly easy to have a line going past a station without stopping at the station. This is indicated by a fine white line going through the center of the colored line. This is really hard to see without zoom. The game does do a few things to give indications. When a station is successfully selected and added to a line, a radiating ring comes from the station in the corresponding color of the line. And the ring is plenty big to be able to see it even while your finger is blocking the station itself.

Assist Modes 3.5/6

This game doesn’t have an assist mode, per se. But it does have an endless mode where failing is impossible. It gets pretty pointless after a while, but it is quite relaxing and satisfying to see the little dots move around. If you want something mindless to occupy yourself on the commute or to decompress after work, then it’s a perfectly fine thing.

Non Visual Cues 4/6

I normally play without sound so I don’t annoy my girlfriend or my fellow metro passengers on my commute. However, the sounds in this game are very helpful if you’re visually impaired. They’re also quiet, unobtrusive, and there is no music. The sounds alert you to passengers boarding and new stations appearing. The new station appearing indicator is of utmost importance because it is all too easy to miss them popping up. I docked points here because I wish this port had taken the time to utilize rumble for new stations popping up. Rumble would have worked well, here.

Decent Fonts 5/6

The menu has nice bold, chunky lettering. It could be bigger. But the menu is pretty much the only time you will interact with any printed words. There is a fairly incomprehensible screen describing the controls, but just use the touchscreen. The button controls require the visual tracking skills of a minor deity, so just avoid them. Other text includes the text describing your options for improvements earned after each phase of gameplay. There are also some descriptions under each stage (which are all world cities) that are in about 4pt. font. However, I’m not counting off too much for those because…

Necessity of Text 6/6

There is very little text to interact with here. Just the menu that selects the stage, which you don’t actually need to read the name of the city to complete. And the little descriptions under the cities say something vague about “send commuters across [insert local river]” that is completely unnecessary. This is about as little reading as you could hope to have in a videogame.

Handheld Play 5.5/6

Handheld play in this game is great. It would be much worse in docked mode because of the lack of touchscreen. The only thing I’m docking points for here is that everything is so small in handheld mode. But I think everything is too small. I’m blind. Still, they could have made things at least a little bigger without any sacrifices.

Level of Precision Required 4.5/6

This game is fairly forgiving, mostly due to the clock that can be paused whenever you like, for as long as you like. It can be a little finicky to un-select a station. Erasing lines can be frustrating. But it is definitely doable by going slow. I’m grading this on the use of the touchscreen because I refuse to use button controls.

Controls 5/6 for touchscreen. 1.5/6 for button controls.

The touchscreen was really built for games like this. I wish the game read input with a little more sensitivity. However, it’s fine for me. That said, I have thin, bony fingers. If you’ve got more beefy hands, you might find it more difficult. The main difficulty I have is touching precise enough because I can’t see what’s behind my finger. If my finger were bigger, it would be harder.

The button controls….. Ugh why? The joystick and A button allow you to move around a cursor and select things. Once the map gets crowded, though, the cursor moves seemingly randomly around the page. It will bounce between train cars, stations, and lines. You have to press the A button a confusing number of times to actually select things and confirm them. The cursor is a decent size, but since you don’t know where it’s going to go, it’s really hard to track it. You end up spending half the game looking for the cursor. And that’s just not fun. Blind people don’t usually like Where’s Waldo for a reason.

Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment

I’d recommend somewhere in the ballpark of 20/400 or better for this game for standard gameplay. The unique station shapes (stars, moons, diamonds, etc.) can be hard to see, and you are able to develop much more successful strategies if you can see the trends of where passengers are wanting to go. If you can’t see at least some of the passenger shapes, you’re going to struggle and not know why you’re struggling. That said, the endless mode could probably be enjoyed by someone with up to 20/800 or so as long as you aren’t too particular about telling the shapes apart. And if you’re open to pausing the clock and using the zoom frequently, I’d put it up closer to 20/1200. Since things get much more difficult to guesstimate up there, I’ll say I’d expect someone able who can read about 60pt. font at close distances able to have fun if you’re willing to stop and zoom a lot. Fully zoomed in, the passenger shapes are about the size of my fingernail. As always, your mileage will vary.

Overall, I recommend this game to someone who wants the feel of a mobile game in a very clean, very polished setup. I found it absolutely addicting, and for over a week, I played nothing else. I rarely felt at a significant disadvantage because I couldn’t see things, even when I was playing with 20/500 vision, and I did not use the pause and zoom strategy. I did have problems with clutter, but this is still less clutter than you have in most games in the genre. Definitely play with the sound on, and also experiment with the light and dark setting to see which works better for you. 

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Christy Smith is a visually impaired gamer whose main goal in life is to snag a seat on the metro instead of having to stand so that she can play Switch on her commute. She/her/hers or They/them/theirs

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