Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. This mantra is something that developer Digital Dreams doesn’t seem to understand. Metrico is a puzzle platformer on the Playstation Vita that is notable for being one of those Vita games determined to make use of every input. Unfortunately, Metrico is no Tearaway. Taking advantage of all of the Vita’s gimmicks doesn’t work out here, it ends up as frustrating rather than entertaining due to poor implementation.
For a lot of reasons, Metrico is a pretty cool game. It has a very nice stylistic look, an interesting approach to puzzle design and is rather unique. The idea is that you solve puzzles by changing metrics, by interacting with the device in order to alter what is on screen. Parts of levels are tied to certain actions or inputs, meaning that you have to toy with these in order to solve puzzles. This is all displayed quite nicely, moveable objects have labels on them which show their potential – like a percentage or a rating out of a number. Percentage means they grow or shrink as that increases, while a rating implies that a specific action happens every time you achieve a specific goal.
Metrico ends up as frustrating rather than entertaining
To start with, it is fun working out how to get your way through Metrico. The puzzles themselves are pretty clever and there is some appeal in fiddling around to work out what impact your actions have. However, this approach to puzzle design quickly runs into a number of issues, the first of which being that there is no learning curve. Metrico is not a game like Portal, it doesn’t cleverly teach you its mechanics while it steadily becomes more difficult. You don’t really apply past lessons to later puzzles, every section is rather self contained with puzzles following similar logic but not building off each other. In every puzzle room the first thing you do is fiddle with the controls until you work out what does what, which later becomes annoying as the game takes note of more and more variables. You could argue that these variables are introduced over time, which creates some progression to the puzzles, but this isn’t what comes across. Every section feels like a separate experience, previous knowledge helps you understand how it works but it doesn’t help you solve it. After all, the puzzle isn’t just moving the environment around, the object is to move things in the right way.
This approach to design really breaks up the pace of Metrico, it doesn’t flow very well and just feels like one thing after another. Each of the six levels varies slightly in aesthetic, indicating some sort of progress, but the impact of this on your experience is minimal. The only substantial change that each level brings is a new way of controlling the game, and here is where things get problematic. Metrico starts quite simply, platforms move due to your movement, meaning that you have to move intelligently in order to craft a path. Later on though, the touch screen is implemented, the back touch is used, motion controls are employed and so is the camera. This could be interesting, but these inputs are really poorly used, creating great levels of frustration. The controls really aren’t up to task, aren’t responsive enough and are often just plain irritating. Moving the Vita around to solve puzzles does start to annoy, as the act itself is not entertaining and it is hard to keep a track of the effect. The real offender though is the rear camera. This segment is poorly explained, but what you have to do is make the camera pick up the colours red, green or blue in order to move certain things. The overbearing issue here is that it doesn’t really work. First of all you have to find things of those colours (which can be annoying), then half the time it doesn’t recognise them properly. This is incredibly frustrating seeing as a lot of the puzzles demand precision.
The controls really aren’t up to task, aren’t responsive enough and are often just plain irritating
Metrico is an interesting game with some cool ideas in it. The puzzles are well designed, but control is poorly implemented into them. The whole idea of just walking into a segment and fiddling about for a bit soon becomes tiring, as working out the fundamentals before you even start on the actual puzzle devolves into trial and error. On a number of occasions I just didn’t work out what metric the game was tracking for a while, meaning I was stuck just flailing my Vita around and attempting every interaction. This is a problem, because the actual puzzle solving comes after you have discovered the metrics the segment is tracking, the challenge should be working out how to exploit those metrics not working out what they are. I did have some fun with Metrico though, especially towards the beginning, but poor design choices get in the way too often. It’s often a very neat little game, and did launch for free for PlayStation Plus members, making it something worth trying out but not the best way to spend your time.