Graphic designers who spend their days translating statistical findings into a series of colorful bars and charts are working in the interesting new field of infographics. And if you’ve opened an Internet browser at all in the last five years, you’ve more than likely seen dozens of them.
Companies love infographics because they’re able to distill complex statistical studies down into an image that is easily shareable across Facebook and Twitter. Audiences love them because they provide easily digestible primers on subjects as frivolous as the many on-screen deaths of Sean Bean to serious societal problems like income inequality.
Dutch development studio Digital Dreams used this same philosophy to create Metrico, a puzzle platformer that was released for the Vita in 2014. The team expanded on their original concept, and launched Metrico+, a remake/sequel, for the Xbox One last month.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Version Played)
Publisher: Digital Dreams
Developer: Digital Dreams
Genre: Infographics Puzzle Platformer
Release Date: August 23, 2016 (PC, PS4), January 20, 2017 (Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
The silhouetted character at the center of Metrico+ doesn’t have a name, but the sharp lines, colorful hues, and rising bars of his world will look familiar to anyone who enjoys infographics. But rather than use this imagery as background fodder for their platformer, Digital Dreams integrated it into how players solve the game’s many puzzles.
Metrico+ includes roughly 60 puzzles spread out across six worlds, each with its own set of rules. As players approach each new puzzle, they’ll discover that their actions have some kind of effect on the world. Stepping forward may cause a platform to slowly descend, while jumping in place could make another rise to the top of the screen. Piecing together these rules is the only way to position the platforms in such a way that allows the player to escape.
Instead of keeping things simple for their players, the developer constantly tosses in new rules to make the puzzles more complicated. The silhouetted main character will ultimately need to master proper teleportation technique as well as wield a projectile gun to advance through some of the later puzzles.
If you’re a fan of puzzle platformers, Metrico+ offers a stylish new world to explore, and even the backgrounds teem with polygonal life. Even though they’re meant to resemble the sterile rigidity of math class, the always-mobile bar charts and line diagrams of Metrico+ make its world feel alive. Several memorable puzzles take this even further with mountains that rise that out of the distance or a neverending forest of spikes that grows or retracts in time with your footsteps.
Complementing the visuals well is a dreamy soundtrack provided by Palmbomen, a Dutch synthesizer composer. Taken together with the calming visuals, the audio has a way of helping Metrico+ wash over the player in a haze. It’s an interesting trick, but the experience also made me feel disconnected from the game at times. I was aware of the controller and each puzzle’s rules, but I never felt sucked in by the game.
That could be because Metrico+ has a rather strange difficulty curve. The first half of the game can be completed in about an hour, and the middle puzzles offer a decently intuitive experience that’s challenging, but not impossible. However, the solutions to the final puzzles are so abstract that I had a hard time even figuring out what rules they operated by. The meditative zen of the earlier portions of the game was replaced by frustration and a little bit of controller-throwing rage.
The unique world that Digital Dreams has created for Metrico+ is one worth visiting for fans of puzzle platformers. Figuring out the rules for each puzzle and watching the platforms, bridges, and walls react to your actions is great. Sadly, after reaching the end, I don’t really have any desire to pick it up again for a second playthrough.
But I am very interested in where this developer goes next.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Metrico+ was provided by Digital Dreams for the purposes of this review.