Reviews
Metrico

By Jorge Figueiredo - September 21st, 2014

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Many of our favourite games are established franchises. These games each have their own basic premise and, because the market demands it, the developers create subsequent titles with improvements. Sometimes these modifications to the formula are minor and sometimes not – but innovation in the form of new features keeps things interesting. Every once in a while, a non-AAA game comes along that is so unique that it makes its mark in our minds with little effort. Metrico, by Digital Dreams, is an action-puzzle-platformer for the Playstation Vita that is very different from the norm, and is the very essence of “a little goes a long way”.

When it comes to design, “minimalist” would be one of the best words to describe Metrico – right from the get-go. You begin the game as a simple figure (your on-screen avatar looks like a shadow) standing in the middle of a field of white (with no defined walls or any point of reference other than yourself. There is no instruction – only you (a theme that will repeat throughout the game – little to no overt guidance). Once you decide to act, the premise of the game begins to take shape, as does the world itself. Experimentation with movement yields new and interesting environmental effects that resemble imagery that speaks of statistical analysis (charts and graphs, complete with numerical labels). In little time, you will find yourself on solid ground, with the path forming just ahead of you and the game world itself reacting to almost every movement you perform.

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Thankfully, you don’t have to create the tables for this diagram.

Metrico is a game that is all about discovery. Experimentation provides you with feedback, giving you clues as to how to complete each part of each stage. It’s like a gigantic tutorial, presenting you with basic concepts that you have to stitch together to continue on your journey. In many respects, Metrico reminds me of Tearaway, with the outside world infringing on the in-game environment, giving you the tools to solve increasingly complex problems. Unlike Tearaway, though, there is no overt narrative – there are only the levels. At the end of each stage, you make the decision to exit the area through one of two doors and move on.

During your adventures, the interactivity to your immediate environment uses the Vita’s many features to build the parts game and act as part of the control system. Use of the analog sticks and face buttons shouldn’t be a surprise, of course; but things like motion detection have a place in the game (and is sometimes quite tricky). Even the Vita’s camera is used creatively. One of my favourite control methods is the rear touch-pad, which is used to aim and shoot at targets. At first, it was a little tricky to utilize; however, once I figured out that the “at rest” position for my fingers was on the neutral plastic grips on the back of the Vita, things became a lot better, and the “firing” mechanic was a lot more enjoyable (though sill challenging in some instances). It’s not hard to see that each person that plays Metrico will latch onto some controls and have difficulty with others. The key is to be patient and take a step back when an impasse is reached.

Unfortunately, these game-play gimmicks can also be the title’s undoing, as some of the puzzles can become frustratingly physical. As you play, Metrico will reveal itself to be a game that can’t always be played in public spaces, like the subway or the bus, due to its sensitivity and the requirement for you to be able to tilt the Vita and contort your body to meet the various angular requirements in the game. There are also a few times where the controls don’t work as they probably should – but these times were few and far between for me. I only mention them because I am picky.

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It’s like watching TV Ontario in the 1980’s.

The visuals, as I mentioned, are minimalist. It is almost as if someone took the graphing and labeling functions of Microsoft Excel and cut them loose onto the world, letting them run around willy-nilly. Of course, these graphics are not really random, and tie into the controls in a way that provides instant feedback. The presentation is quite fantastic, and the simplistic design really works, especially with such great colours. The accompanying synth soundtrack complements the visuals of each of the worlds perfectly. This strange pairing of sight and sound are oddly relaxing, and do much to distract you from some of the more frustrating levels.

Metrico is a game for the curious at heart that makes the player work all the way through the six worlds contained within. The symbiotic relationship between reality and the graphics and labels presents layers of interactivity to the player. Like some odd analog clock, each piece of the game represents a cog or a gear that works in tandem with all of the other internal parts to make a beautiful whole. If you are someone who likes to tinker, and have the patience to take the time to understand cause and effect in a world of symbology then Metrico will not disappoint you.

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