I played Mini Motorways

July 25, 2021

Mini Motorways is a new puzzle game released by Dinosaur Polo Club. It looks like a minimalistic city builder but it's not really, so I'll call it a puzzle-builder. Their previous game Mini Metro and the likes of ISLANDERS and Dorfromantik fit in the same genre.

You have colored houses and colored malls popping up on a map and you have to connect them in the most efficient way possible with limited amount of roads tiles, roundabouts, motorways, bridges and more. The goal is to avoid traffic congestion in order to score the highest number of successful trips. If a mall can't be accessed by houses of the same color for too long, you lose.

I put 10 hours into it at the time of this writing and completed all maps and half the Steam achievements. I played a lot of Mini Metro before. Mini Motorways kept the intuitive UX and the clean visual style but is cuter and slightly more complex.

A screenshot of the video game Mini Motorways (2021)

Each map is named after a real-life city with its own constraints. Some require a lot of bridges to get around, other tunnels to go through mountains, etc. The game will let you access the next city if you manage at least 300 trips in the current one—it's easy but you can only get all optional achievements with 1,000 and 2,000 trips. This progression and sense of completion is very similar to Mini Metro's and its whole user interface is pretty much a carbon copy too.

The gameplay is balanced through the amount of construction tiles at your disposal. Every in-game week that is reached by the clock in the top right corner, you have to choose between two sets of construction tiles. For example, would you prefer to have 20 road tiles and a roundabout OR 10 road tiles and a motorway? Or perhaps 30 road tiles only. The choice really depends on how you've built your city thus far.

In any case, you can always pause the game and modify your roads at any time. Though keep in mind that you can only get your tiles back when the active car trips that still require the deleted path are completed. Meaning that if you have an alternate working path, you get the refund instantly and if you don't, you have to unpause the game and wait for the little cars to finish their round-trip. This is important as urgent matters can't always be dealt with if you don't have extra tiles at the ready.

A screenshot of the video game Mini Motorways (2021)

NOTE: I thought that houses popping up were a bit too random at first with their sometime annoying, out of alignment locations until I discovered that you can force them into a straight line by framing them with roads in advance. That's because no house (or mall) in the game will ever replace your current roads. So if a house pops up and you wish for the future ones to be on the same line, then draw the roads that will obstruct those out of alignment locations now. Of course, this implies that you have enough available tiles to do so.

On top of that, you can save a lot of room and tiles by rotating paths diagonally instead of making straight corners everywhere.

A screenshot of the video game Mini Motorways (2021)

As you play more and more, you start to apply your own strategies: which layouts to aim for and which ones to avoid. Revisiting maps to improve your old score thanks to your new knowledge is satisfying.

Mini Motorways also has daily and weekly challenges with exclusive game modifiers to keep content fresh in-between updates.

Here's how I would improve the game or what I wish to see in future updates:

  • Let me rebind keys. More specifically, I'd like to be able to slow down or speed up the game with my scroll wheel.
  • Allow me to see my city again when I have to choose between the different construction sets. I had the same issue with Mini Metro. I don't always know which construction set my city would benefit from the most when the big white screen suddenly appears!
  • The construction grid grows over time because the camera is slowly zooming out as the city gets bigger. This new grid perimeter can be clogged by houses or malls popping up before I even had the chance to reserve it with my roads, especially at 2x speed. This is not a big problem as we can pause the game at any time but I wish there was a small visual indication that the grid just got bigger, instead of constantly checking in construction mode what it looks like now. Perhaps showing the outer corners of the grid at all times would be enough.
  • Better visual cues in general for everything. Mini Motorways relies a lot on audio cues but this is also the kind of game that I prefer to mute in favor of YouTube videos or TV. The warning pins don't cut it when I'm seconds away from failure and the super slow and semi-transparent blinking for disconnected houses and malls is way too subtle.
  • After 10 hours I'm still unsure if traffic lights are always helpful or not, especially compared to roundabouts. Perhaps a traffic health overlay could remove the guess work. I guess it's hard for me to see which intersection is the source of the problem when things start to go wrong.

In its current state, Mini Motorways is already a fantastic and relaxing game with an excellent presentation, a small price and a lot of content. It's an easy recommendation!