The most fun you can have with rush hour traffic.
Mini Motorways is a high-score based puzzle game about managing traffic in a growing city. It takes only a minute or two to understand the vast majority of its mechanics. However, the myriad of ways in which these mechanics can be utilized to improve the traffic flow of your city will take much longer to explore.
Each level, based loosely on the geography of a real world city, starts with one house, and one destination. Both are the same color, indicating that the occupants of this house will want to travel to that destination. Using either the left analogue stick or the touch screen you’ll need to draw a road to connect the two. Once you do, cars will begin traveling back and forth between the house and the destination. Slowly more houses will appear, they’ll all be the same color at the first, but eventually new house and destination colors will also begin appearing. You only have a certain number of road tiles for every in-game week, so giving every color its own unique roads isn’t an option. Roads will intersect, combine, and quickly fill with traffic.
At the end of each week you’re given more road tiles and a choice between two unique building pieces. These pieces include roundabouts and traffic lights to help manage intersections, highways to help alleviate traffic traveling from one end of your city to another, bridges to cross bodies of water, and tunnels to pass through mountains. These items, along with the roads themselves, are essentially the extent of the mechanics in Mini Motorways. They’re all simple to implement and easy to use, though I still struggle to know when the best time is to use a roundabout versus a traffic light at an intersection. The two obviously serve similar purposes, but it is hard to get a handle on what the ideal use case is for each one.
This is a high score game, so your goal is not to build the perfect city, but rather to survive for as long as possible. If enough cars take too long to get to their destination a timer will appear over that building. If the timer expires without enough cars making it, it’s game over. Online leaderboards and challenges based around hitting a certain score add some replay value to stages, and while each one isn’t horribly different, there are plenty of stages to play through. That being said, a bit more tangible variety in scenarios would certainly be a bonus. As is, maps rarely stand out and all tend to blend together.
Mini Motorways’ interface is clean and extremely accessible. It has some of the best colorblind options I’ve seen in a while, allowing me to personally choose each color available for use as buildings and destinations. It also features a night mode which trades in the bright white background for a darker one. Perfect for when a run keeps you up later than it should. Like most games with their origins on Apple Arcade, that transition to Switch seems to have been effortless. Loading is quick, and everything is satisfyingly smooth.
Mini Motorways is simple and extremely addictive. Experimentation with how best to use each element is fun and satisfying when something clicks. And when it doesn’t, you simply pick that piece back up and try something else. It has been quite a while since a puzzle game so immediately conveyed its appeal to me and while there are certainly some small things I’d improve, it won’t stop me from continuing to play this for a very long time.