Not to let people in on more than they care to know, but I’ve been out of commission for a while and haven’t reviewed a game in a few weeks. However, circumstances have made it such that here I am again, back in the reviewers saddle. Those of you who regularly read my reviews may have also noticed a change in style. That’s because: this time, it’s personal.
Metrico. It’s a 2D platform puzzler from indie developers Digital Dreams Games. And it’s awesome. At the time of writing, it’s also massively under appreciated (hence the more personal tone to this review). Frankly, I’m stunned that more people haven’t been blown away by this masterpiece of modern gaming.
The premise is – unusual. Essentially, the game is built in a world of metrics: pie charts, bar graphs, statistics – this may make it sound dull or uninspired, not for you right? Wrong.
Actually, what Digital Dreams games have done is outstandingly inventive. As mentioned previously, at its heart, Metrico is a 2D platformer/ puzzle game. The world is built upon metrics, but your objective is to get your character from A to B (typically from left to right). How you get there is the real challenge because rather than just having blocks to jump on or baddies to avoid, Metrico has a totally unique hook.
Your actions directly influence the landscape around you, opening and closing the paths you need to take depending on how you approach. Confused? Ok, let’s break it down with a simple example. Imagine you are standing at the far left of the screen, on the far right is the door out and there is nothing in between. However, as you walk towards the door, a bar appears in front of the door blocking the exit. The further you walk, the higher the bar gets until the door is blocked off completely.
This is happening because on this particular puzzle, your steps are being counted. The bar literally fills up in relation to the steps you take. So how do you progress? Simple! You jump across the screen – because the puzzle isn’t counting your jumps!
That is Metrico at its most basic. It only goes up from there. Each and every puzzle is more ingenious than the last. As Metrico is a Vita exclusive, they have been able to create a uniquely Vita experience.
Even more so than a game like Tearaway (that certainly played to the Vita’s strengths), Metrico uses and combines all of the Vita’s features. Though it starts simple with analogue sticks and button pushes, before long it has you aiming using the back touch screen, shooting by tapping the front touch screen, manipulating the platforms using the Vita’s accelerometers. One puzzle even required me to rotate the machine through a full 360 degrees whilst simultaneously moving my character right, then jumping. Even the camera gets involved!
The puzzles are such that not only do they take some working out in the first place, they also take some doing. Careful timing in the midst of clever puzzles gets pretty challenging. However, they never feel impossible either. My experiences playing Metrico have been brilliant. Approaching a new puzzle often takes you through the stages of being confused, piecing together what you need to do, marveling at the small team at Digital Dreams Games’ sheer inventiveness – then that smug satisfaction and pride at not only working out the puzzle – but actually pulling it off and progressing to the next challenge.
This could be the ‘problem’ that some reviewers have had with the game? It actually doesn’t fit nicely into a familiar category. It fits into two. You need to have the physical dexterity required of an out and out 2D platformer – it’s not as punishing as something like Shovel Knight or 1001 Spikes, but it certainly requires some quick, coordinated movements and at times there’s a lot going on. However, you also need the analytic and sometimes experimental mind required of an out and out puzzler.
You also need to put to one side everything you know about either genre. Metrico doesn’t have lives to lose like a 2D platformer. Well, it does, but if you lose them – it isn’t game over. Quite the opposite. Sometimes the game requires you to ‘lose lives’ in order to progress. For example, early on you approach an area that has a massive pit that is way too big to jump across. You try the methods you know to get a platform or bridge to appear. You run left, nothing. You run right, nothing. You jump up and down, nothing. Only when (possibly in frustration, or hoping for an invisible ledge) you throw yourself into the pit of certain death is the way forward revealed. The metric on this puzzle being counted – is your deaths! Once you’ve racked up enough, the bar chart bridge has been built for you to cross.
It really comes into its own when things start to combine and the puzzles REALLY make you scratch your head! One of my favourite puzzles expanded on the above idea. You had to create a staircase of bars by dying in different ways. I’d managed to work out three of the four steps: falling down a pit, getting stuck and hitting the ‘circle’ button to go back to the check point and letting the one rolling ‘baddie’ walk into me. However, I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to get the third bar on the bar chart staircase to raise!?
Eventually, I found it almost by accident and rejoiced as I quickly progressed to the end of the level, bopping along to the game’s awesome soundtrack. The sense of achievement was unbelievable (I won’t spoil it for you)!
Metrico is challenging, rewarding, beautiful and, in my opinion, once of the most creative and innovative games on any system. It’s free on Playstation Plus this month so PLEASE don’t overlook it. It deserves to be experienced – and if you get stuck, don’t give up – that’s part of the fun! (And if you get REALLY stuck, let me know in the comments below, I’ll sort you out).
More than that though, when you play it – and enjoy it – spread the word. My biggest fear is that Vita owners out there, crying out for new games and exclusive content overlook this gem because on paper it doesn’t sound anywhere near as awesome as it is when it’s in your hands!