Mini Motorways Impressions

Mini Motorways

Tokyo’s map has a locally-themed colour palette
Screenshot: Kotaku

I mean no disrespect to Apple Arcade subscribers here, but there’s a growing trend where very good games appear on the service, are widely ignored by the majority who aren’t a part of it, then get to be enjoyed like brand new games for the first time by everyone else when they finally land on other platforms.

I wrote about one of these last month, Lego: Builder’s Journey, and today I’m writing about another one, Mini Motorways. The sequel of sorts to Mini Metro, a game I am aghast to find is now seven years old, Mini Motorways first came out in 2019 on Apple’s subscription service, but has now also dropped on Steam, meaning I’m getting to play it and enjoying every second of it.

Gita wrote about the game back in 2019 when she played it on the phone, and while everything she said about how terrible cars are is still very much true, I’m still in love with this game for most of the same reasons I fell in love with Mini Metro.

Just like Mini Metro wasn’t really about trains, Mini Motorways isn’t really about cars either. Sure, there are cursory nods to how roads work, but it takes around four seconds playing this to know that this isn’t a serious simulation of urban planning.

The theme is the excuse to hit us with what this series does best: elegantly escalating puzzle challenges that in most circumstances would quickly become infuriating were they not draped in the most chill visuals and interface imaginable.

Just look at this trailer. Anyone who has lived in a car-driven city will know that major motorway construction is hell on Earth, and anyone who has ever had to drive to work knows that being stuck in traffic is also hell on Earth, just in a smaller place.

Here, though, the reality of what’s being simulated is stripped away to the point where huge intersections bristling with traffic are represented by beautifully minimal traffic lights, and motorways are brought to life simply by dragging them across a map.

There’s still pressure to be felt here, as every game of Mini Motorways is about building the right roads fast enough to meet increasing demand—if you don’t, it’s game over—but every time I’ve failed I’ve simply said ‘ah, oh well, that was lovely, let’s do that again”.

The game’s challenges never feel unfair though, or stressful, they’re just there in the way that you know this is a game that gets slightly harder the longer you play it, and that there will inevitably become a point where this all becomes too much and it’s game over, no matter how well your planning and construction speed has gone.

And when it does, that’s cool, you can just slide over to a different city—there are loads to choose from, each with regional colour palettes and a rough approximation of their environment—and try it all over again.

Mini Motorways is out now on Steam, and is also coming to Nintendo Switch in 2022.

The game includes a neat little “photo mode” that turns your cities into postcards

The game includes a neat little “photo mode” that turns your cities into postcards
Screenshot: Kotaku

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