Apple Arcade is now available. It is the newest video gaming subscription service for Apple’s entire ecosystem – iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac and even Apple TV. It features over 50 games at launch, and will have new curated games added weekly. With that said, one title in particular has stood out from the rest – at least for me. Called Mini Motorways, the game puts you in charge of controlling the traffic for a city.
The idea is simple. You are a master motorways traffic planner. It is your job to build roads to connect the inhabitants of the world with the various businesses and outlets available to them. The better your connections and routes, the more cars can make it to their respective destinations. Unlike the simplicity of the idea, the execution is where the complexity and challenge take hold. Although you have the ability to construct the routes of the world’s vehicular transport, you do not have command over where residents or businesses are located. This is the puzzle element of the title, which encourages clever and strategic thinking to best build a layout resulting in the least amount of traffic bottlenecks.
At your disposal is the ability to place new roads, highways, traffic lights and bridges across the map. These resources are finite within Mini Motorways and must be used with care. With this in mind, the game features a seven day in-game world cycle (it even includes day and night). After each cycle, you are gifted additional road elements and the option of replenishing one of two other resources. This choice can make or break your game, and must be carefully considered.
Mini Motorways uses an intuitive grid system. Each space can be occupied by one of the available resources. Placing resources is as simple as dragging and dropping (highways and traffic lights) or simply tapping and dragging (roads and bridges). Tapping the map once zooms in to the build mode. In this mode there is a toggle for creating roads or removing them. Another tap exits ‘build’ mode and offers an overview of the map being played. Using two fingers allows the map to be moved. The controls are simple, intuitive and easy to understand. Thus placing the focus firmly on how to better the city’s traffic flow, versus being encumbered by overcomplicated controls.
Much like Mini Metro, the first title from developer Dinosaur Polo Club, there are a variety of cities you can use for play. Namely Los Angeles, Beijing, Tokyo, Dar es Salaam, Moscow and Munich. Each city has its own unique challenges and provides a fair amount of variety. Each city also includes a weekly leaderboard of top scores, so you can see where you rank on a global scale.
Visually, Mini Motorways features a beautiful and minimalist aesthetic. Although the game looks two dimensional, the elements are rendered in three dimensions. Therefore buildings, cars and other visual elements have a unique isometric look to them, complete with shadows and other little visual flourishes. Maps also have three options for play: normal, dark mode and ‘realistic’. The latter most option eschews the minimalist aesthetic for maps rendered using more than two colours.
The enchanting visuals are enhanced even further by the stupendous audio. The music in Mini Motorways may be described as ethereal. It ebs and flows, in real time, according to the traffic, how well you as the player are doing, and seemingly morphs with every touch input. It is a delightfully surreal experience that deserves to be shared and enjoyed. The other sound effects all work in tandem to produce one of the most aurally satisfying and calming soundtracks I have yet experienced from a mobile game.
The simplicity of the title is deceptive. Beneath the easy controls and gameplay lies an engaging and gorgeous experience. The visuals are clear cut and charming, and the audio is utterly fantastic. It is a highlight of Apple Arcade, and a clear showcase for the kind of games the service will hopefully be known for in the years to come.
|iOS (Apple Arcade)
|Apple Arcade Subscription
Owner, founder and editor-in-chief at Vamers, Hans has a vested interest in geek culture and the interactive entertainment industry. With a Masters degree in Communications and Ludology, he is well read and versed in matters relating to video games and communication media, among many other topics of interest.