Developed by Digital Dreams, a small studio from the Netherlands based in the same offices as Vlambeer, Game Oven and Abbey Games – Metrico is a game about infographics. You know, the fancy images businesses use that are designed to convey masses of information in a simple and easy to digest format? Those. Given that it’s a strange premise, and one that you’d be forgiven for wondering exactly what type of experience you’re going to get, does Metrico manage to get its message across concisely?
I knew very little about Metrico when I received the review code beyond that here at Codec Moments we like a good infographic, and the game did absolutely nothing to tell me any more. Relying solely on a couple of one off instructions for controls, you’re thrown into a 2-D world, with background depth, and left to figure out what you’re meant to be doing. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much exactly what infographics do – present you with simplified data for you to interpret without any help. You control the character through the direction buttons/left stick, with the ubiquitous ‘X’ as the jump button, and control the environment with nearly every other function the PlayStation Vita has to offer. The video below gives a taste of what the game is like.
Metrico is a pure platformer where the goal is to pass through the stage by manipulating the surrounding objects, mostly rectangular bars. Jumping, falling, and moving left and right are the most immediate and simple ways of turning obstacles into pathways, though as you progress through what feels like a subway map, you’ll begin to use the face buttons, the front and rear touch, and even the 6-axis movement as well. What can only be described as enemies are also thrown into the mix, though they’re not really enemies, you just get put back to a checkpoint if you touch them… and this might turn out to actually be one of the ways to progress. What’s cool about Metrico is that there’s no consistency with the puzzle aspect, what might work in one scenario is not guaranteed to work in another. This trial-and-error approach can lead to a lot of frustration too, so be warned if you’re low on patience with puzzle games.
Visually, there’s not a lot you can compare this to, the closest I can think of is Rez with a distinct blocky style. And whilst the marketing spin tells you Metrico is based on infographics, there’s not a huge amount of variation in what you see shape-wise, though the colour palettes are unique to each level. However, I can see exactly where the inspiration comes in, and the percentage bars and number of instance annotations used to indicate progress (or lack of) make you feel like you’re meandering through a giant Excel graph. Collectables appear in the form of pie charts that you “assemble” by satisfying certain criteria in a puzzle, like aligning platforms in a particular way, or reaching a certain spot you’d not usually move through; and the fact that these are not tutorialised means that you may get near the end of the game before you figure out what they were. Accompanying you on your journey through this very abstract landscape is a nice soundtrack that won’t set the world on fire, but does the job it’s meant to do, and has a nice early 1980’s corporate promo video vibe to it that fits the visuals really well.
Metrico is definitely unique and not a subject matter I’d have ever envisaged as providing an entertaining game, as much as I like a good chart and graph. There’s a worry that something that sounds like a marketing tool and might be more like your job hasn’t got a place in your hobby time, or at least it was for me, and the game neatly avoids that. There were times where I got infuriated with the mechanics, jump isn’t as responsive as I want it to be, and plenty of points where I was stuck on how to proceed because the almost total lack of instruction is quite hard to work your head around to begin with, but the satisfaction gained from solving things by yourself is an often overlooked reward. Overall, there’s a good game here that will pass the time even if it doesn’t make your all time top ten list, and it has one of the strangest departures for an ending credit sequence I’ve ever seen. That alone is worth playing through to the end for, even if that won’t take you long to reach.
As a final thought (sorry for going all Springer on you), there’s something I couldn’t help but feel I was missing through the game. A bit like I’d not understood the purpose, or there should be a deeper meaning. Metrico expects experimentation according to the website, and that’s maybe where I went wrong, I played it as a straight platformer and could have missed loads in the process. Because the game leaves you to your own devices it’s easy to take exactly what you want from it, and the lack of feedback from others might have made this feel like a stunted experience. It’s enough of a thought to entice me back for a second go once others are playing, to see if I can unravel a few mysteries, though I don’t how long it’ll hold my fascination for. One thing’s for sure, I definitely won’t forget it.
A review copy of Metrico for the PlayStation Vita was provided by the Digital Dreams PR team. Metrico is released on the PlayStation Network on 5th August for the US ($13.99) and 6th August for the EU (£10.99/€12.99), and will be free with PS Plus for the whole month.