Corporate annual reports are deathly dull no matter how many snazzy sales charts they have. But what if you could play in their infographic landscapes? Well that'd be massive fun of course.
Dutch developer Digital Dreams thinks so and to prove its point it has created Metrico, a platform-puzzler for the PlayStation Vita that transports players into an abstract world built out of charts and geometric diagrams. It looks like the fever dream of an Office for National Statistics number cruncher, but how does it play?
To journey through Metrico’s infographic realm you must guide your stick-thin character past puzzling arrangements of assorted charts and diagrams that move and change depending on your actions.
So in an early puzzle the path is blocked by a large square that rises up when you jump. To get past it you need to keep jumping until it’s high enough to give you enough time to scurry underneath before it drops and squishes you. And with the way objects work changing with every puzzle, Metrico pushes players to constantly experiment with its world, helping to make each challenge feel fresh.
Another thing that keeps Metrico fresh is its use of the Vita’s smorgasboard of controls.
After starting with just the ability to run and jump, the controls pile up until players are manipulating objects by twirling their Vita, searching for colours with the rear camera and shooting deadly enemies by aiming with the back touchpad and firing by tapping the front touchscreen. Sometimes the game’s desire to use everything the Vita’s got overreaches, but most of the time it’s highly inventive stuff.
At one point we even made ourselves dizzy from spinning round circles while trying to solve a puzzle, and not many games can say they can do that. That said, it does mean that Metrico isn’t ideal for the daily commute. Unless you want to be the person that everyone else on the bus hopes won’t sit next to them.
Once the first few gentle introductory puzzles are done and dusted, Metrico really dials up the challenge. Make no mistake there are some downright fiendish puzzles here. We’re talking ‘arrggh’-inducing, hair-pulling puzzles that will sometimes make you want to slam your Vita down in frustration. But taxing as the game can be, it gets under your skin so successfully that even after turning it off in a rage you’ll soon be back at it when a potential solution pops into your head.
Tricky brainteasers and clever use of the Vita’s features are what makes Metrico special but it’s pretty too. Yes, it might have the kind of minimalist visuals that seem to be used in every other indie game these days, but it’s a style that fits Metrico’s diagramatic challenges like a glove.
The soundtrack created by Dutch synthesiser composer Palmbomen is less successful. At first its ethereal mix of airy synths and atmospheric noises complements the game’s otherworldliness, but it eventually becomes irritating, especially when getting stuck on a challenge means listening to the same drone-like composition over and over again.
Metrico also lets itself down with a number of minor irritations. The game’s minimalism sometimes borders on uncommunicative and that's never more obvious than on the surprisingly slow loading screens, which drag out because it’s hard to tell if the game is actually loading or waiting for you to do something.
It's also a short game, so don’t expect to be playing it for more than a week - but that’s hardly something to complain about when PlayStation Plus subscribers can get their mitts on it for free this month.