METRICO+ Review

By Sam Quirke,
Much as I would love to be reviewing games full time, my day job is a typical 9-to-5 affair, centred around moving columns of data from one place to another. Video games are my way of scrubbing the endless bar charts and PowerPoint presentations from my mind's eye. The last thing I should probably be playing after a long day at work is METRICO+, known since its 2014 PlayStation Vita release as a puzzle platformer embedded in a world of infographics and statistics. It certainly sounds unique, but it also sounds like nothing any office drone would ever want to play. Happily, things aren't quite that bad when you actually get your hands on it.

Screen 6Pictured: the stuff of my nightmares.

For starters, the idea that METRICO+ takes place inside a universe of infographics is a little bit misleading. It's certainly true that everything assumes the shape of your average chart or financial presentation — there are bars and percentages, and even tiny little pie charts — but they are all completely abstract. There isn't any kind of context or labelling going on, no hypotheses or conclusions. It's just a bunch of meaningless shapes that happens to look a little bit like something you could generate in a spreadsheet. This is a real missed opportunity, when use of actual real-world statistics and graphs could have given the game a narrative, maybe even some socio-political relevance. Instead, it's really just about getting your little avatar over a bunch of blocks with no context.

There is a vague attempt at a story here, but it's not a good one. Your avatar starts the game as a human silhouette, but by the end of the game seems to have been stripped down a to robotic-looking skeleton, thanks to a series of strange interludes between game worlds. It's as opaque a narrative as that offered by INSIDE, but it has none of the atmosphere, character or tension to make it worth analysis. It feels like someone decided late into development that a narrative might be needed to justify the game’s existence on dedicated gaming devices instead of joining the heap of similar apps on smartphones. With indie puzzlers like Inside, The Turing Test, and The Witness still fresh in the memory, METRICO+ feels like it's missing a narrative backbone – especially since the game is pretty short.

Screen 4What horrible crime did this lady commit, that she deserves to be trapped in a spreadsheet?

Thank goodness that METRICO+ excels in the most important aspect: the puzzles. The conundrums in this game revolve around two variables — the types of controller input available to you and the way that your inputs affect the environment in each puzzle. Each of the game’s six worlds has its own combination of rules and inputs, meaning that you need to wrap your head around several concepts in your playthrough. It’s not dissimilar to Braid in this respect. Sometimes simply heading left instead of right will completely change the layout of the course. You might increase the height of one platform with a jump but decrease the next one by taking too many steps, meaning that you have to conserve your movement for the optimal path to the exit.

Additional inputs are revealed at the start of each world, but even these basic commands might be manipulated in unique ways for a certain puzzle. A floating circle is introduced early on as a checkpoint to allow you to get back to a certain platform if you mess up. Within a few puzzles, this checkpoint becomes part of the solution itself. Maybe resetting your position four times will lift a certain column, or maybe switching your reset location from checkpoint A to checkpoint B will give you the height needed to lower a pillar that reacts to your fall distance. Later there are basic enemies that you can shoot, but the quantity and direction of shots that you take might change the scene completely. These are just some simple examples, but the complexity is quite significant in some areas of the game. The key strength of METRICO+ is that the puzzles competently walk the fine line between being too simple and too difficult; you’ll often be stumped for a while, but you’ll eventually work it out.

Screen 1You'll stand still a lot, just wondering where to start.

Even if you are a competent puzzler, there are additional challenges to satisfy you. Collectibles in this game aren’t just about reaching a certain point but are about configuring the platform positions to meet the collectible’s exact requirements. Each one is a pie chart, and each segment of the pie represents one platform, letting you know how many platforms you need to configure. The configuration will normally be completely at odds with the one needed to actually pass the area, so it'll take some time to figure it all out. There’s also a speed run challenge for each world as well, which changes the game from a slow head-scratcher into a tense test of your memory and precision. It's one thing to figure out these conundrums but it's quite another try to remember which button does what and how you're going to press them all in the right sequence. In some puzzles it almost felt like I was trying to pull off a complex combo in a fighting game rather than traverse a typical platforming environment.

A near-total lack of instructions is refreshing but it can also be frustrating when you have no idea what to do next. The one aid available is actually one of the game’s highlights: most moveable platforms in the game that have an ambiguous metric value. It might be “0/5”, meaning that you need to work out which action will change the length or height of a platform in five increments, and how many increments would put it in the right position. Some have a percentage value instead, and it’s a matter of working out what movements will affect it. It’s a great way into each puzzle, because you can experiment with your available options and see the output numerically. It will also undoubtedly make speed runs a little easier, because you’ll be able to document and memorise the optimal positioning of each platform down to a precise fraction or percentage.

Screen 5In the time trials, precision is everything.

Performance glitches occasionally hampered enjoyment of the title. In a game that needs quite a lot of precise input, the avatar would occasionally respond incorrectly or not at all. Twice, after pausing the game, the ‘Resume’ button was unusable meaning that progress was lost on that particular puzzle. This could be incredibly frustrating if it happens during a time trial where you would have to restart the whole run. I should stress that the bugs were not persistent and the game is still very much playable. Hopefully, a future patch can smooth things out.

The colours and soundscapes of METRICO+ suit each other perfectly. Pastel shades are accompanied by soothing musical loops, while your interaction with your avatar and the objects around them produce short melodical effects. Each world has a different audio-visual theme but it never gets intrusive. The only time the music might start to irritate you is if you get stuck on a puzzle for a long time, or take several attempts at a full world time trial. The graphics can be a little sloppy in the fine detail. Even on my modest sized TV there was a significant lack of sharpness to the graphics, as though the visuals had been roughly scaled up from a handheld screen without detailed readjustment. It’s a minor thing, but the game’s closest competitors still have the edge when it comes to polish.

Screen 3At least colour it in a bit, guys.

METRICO+ has a great achievement list if you like a tricky but manageable challenge. It’s perfectly possible to get through the whole game without unlocking a single one. There are three achievements tied to picking up all of the collectibles, and six mapped to beating a time trial score in each world. The most interesting achievements are also the most challenging – each world has a unique condition to meet, from jumping less than 43 times to not missing a single shot. Certainly the most frustrating is completing a world without ever walking left. You can still jump left, and you have to do so for several puzzles, but if even a single step left is registered then you won’t get the achievement. It’s a short but interesting list that adds an extra dimension to your experience.

Summary

While the game sorely lacks a decent story to match its competitors, METRICO+ is still a decent puzzle platformer at its core. Fans of Braid will feel at home with its complexity and innovation, often requiring a similar level of spatial awareness and movement conservation to get through a stage. It manages to balance on the fine line between being too simple and too difficult, only occasionally driving players to frustration due to a lack of contextual instructions. The game is ultimately a little short, but tricky collectibles and time trials make a repeat visit worthwhile. METRICO+ might not be ground-breaking but it will certainly appeal to anyone looking for a new mind-bender to wrap their head around.
7 / 10
METRICO+
Positives
  • Unique design, environment and puzzle logic
  • Genuinely tricky to solve
  • Time trials and collectibles add some replayability
Negatives
  • Lacks any real substance or purpose
  • Some minor performance and graphics issues
  • A little short
Ethics
The reviewer spent six hours trying to get bar charts to behave, an ordeal depressingly similar to his day job. Nine of the game's 17 achievements were earned along the way. An Xbox One code was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purposes of this review.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.