Mini Motorways Review (PC/Steam)

These motorways might be mini, but they’re big on gameplay!

Imagine a brand new portable gaming device with almost no buttons at all. Just a massive touch screen and nothing else, running on its own proprietary operating system and only featuring downloadable games designed specifically for it, no cartridges or discs at all. Sounds absurd, right? Surely nobody would buy something like that. Well, it already exists, and has for over a decade: the Apple iPad.

This iconic touch-screen tablet, while mostly marketed as a device focused on productivity and functionality, has been used for gaming ever since its release in 2010. Like it or not, the iPad is technically an unconventional handheld gaming console, made easily accessible for casual gamers in households and offices across the globe. Early titles like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Infinity Blade and Plants vs. Zombies HD proved that touch screen mobile devices could produce gaming experiences to rival that of dedicated handhelds. In the following years, many iOS games even achieved critical acclaim: Monument Valley, World of Goo, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (pictured below) to name just a few.

Years later, the obsession with mobile gaming still hasn’t stopped thanks to New Zealand developers Dinosaur Polo Club, the minds behind the puzzle strategy games, Mini Metro (2015) and more recently, Mini Motorways (2019). These simplistic, heavily-stylised, minimalist games make the mundane – traffic – into a mesmorising procedure through vast interconnected networks designed from scratch by the player. What starts off as a simple concept soon becomes increasingly complex!

So how does an iOS/Apple Arcade game like Mini Motorways with a casual style of play and heavy use of a touch screen translate into a dedicated PC experience? Far better than you’d think! Read on in our review that’s hopefully a bit more entertaining than sitting in traffic.

Mini Motorways PC Steam Nintendo Switch iOS Apple Arcade Review

Concept

When sitting in gridlock, have you ever wondered how you might be able to get home, to work, or to your destination just a bit quicker? Maybe with a more direct route, some extra roads, or possibly even a high-speed motorway to reduce your commute? Well, Mini Motorways will help make these thoughts a reality! By taking control of metropolitan networks from around the globe, the player has the opportunity to turn this disorderly drive into a highly-organised mesh of roads and motorways at the click of a button.

Mini Motorways PC Steam Nintendo Switch iOS Apple Arcade Review
Is this what it feels like to work for LA city council?

The game is divided into themed maps, each of which are based on a real-life location. You’ll have the option to build networks connecting huge cities like Tokyo, Beijing, Los Angeles, and many more. They also feature distinct geographical landmarks like rivers and coastlines that make the level not only more authentic, but add an additional level of challenge when building your network.

Gameplay

What might seem like a mundane and complex concept is stunningly simple and oddly-satisfying. The game will slowly introduce you to its gameplay mechanics through a short step-by-step tutorial, which clearly explains the key concepts of the game. The goal is simple: the player must connect coloured houses to similarly coloured destinations by adjoining them with roads by which the cars may travel. Cars must collect pins from their destination, and collecting a pin counts for a single point. As time progresses, additional houses and destinations will begin to appear, making the commute more complex.

Mini Motorways PC Steam Nintendo Switch iOS Apple Arcade Review Gif

More cars on the road will require additional means of managing the traffic. After each week of gameplay (which is the equivalent of a couple minutes), the player will be given additional resources: roads, traffic lights, roundabouts, bridges, and most importantly, motorways. By utilising these different structures, the flow of traffic can be made smoother and more efficient, which becomes necessary when the small map begins to expand a sprawling city.

Mini Motorways PC Steam Nintendo Switch iOS Apple Arcade Review
You’ll be able to build a sprawling network within minutes!

Eventually, pins will be popping up rapidly around the map. Failure to collect enough pins in time will set off a timer on a destination, which will slowly build up unless cars navigate to the pins. Once the timer is full, the level is finished, and the score is calculated by how many pins are collected. This is then automatically uploaded to a worldwide leaderboard to challenge thousands of other players.

Visuals

Clean, crisp, simplistic and minimalist – perfect words to describe the unique visual aesthetic of Mini Motorways. Though initially suited to handheld play, this visual style looks incredibly pleasing on PC, with its straight lines, curved highways, and intricate matrixes of roads. What the game lacks in detail it makes up for in style, with each map having a distinct colour palette and design reflective of its geographical location. For example, when playing in Tokyo, a light shade of pink is used to resemble that of cherry blossoms, and building roads through its trees will result in puffs of pink leaves.

Mini Motorways PC Steam Nintendo Switch iOS Apple Arcade Review
At times it’s almost hypnotic to watch.

It most certainly retains all the visual cues of a mobile game despite no longer having any touch screen aspects. Clicking to place and remove roads and other structures both looks and feels intuitive. The game becomes most visually satisfying once a detailed mesh has been created, with hundreds of tiny cars flitting about efficiently.

Audio

One of the most respected composers in the world of ambient videogame music is responsible for the sounds of Mini Motorways: Disasterpeace. Known for creating the music of games like Fez, and Hyper Light Drifter, it should come as no surprise that the tracks featured in this game are relaxing, hypnotic, excellent background music. There are no particular melodies that will grab you, as the music is entirely procedurally created, and reacts based on your own actions in the game! The songs generated are rhythmic and structured, varying with the scale of the traffic and gameplay, and could easily be listened to on loop for hours. Combined with the soft hum of traffic, the sound of Mini Motorways is a satisfying ambience to accompany the overall experience.

A short snippet of procedurally-generated ambient music.

Extras

Several additional features have been added with a focus on accessibility. Players have the option to remove particular animations, adapt controls, and adjust visuals based on their preference or needs. For a game as simple as this, it’s a nice option to include these added elements where many others would omit them.

Mini Motorways PC Steam Nintendo Switch iOS Apple Arcade Review
As if the game wasn’t already challenging enough.

Additionally, to keep you coming back for more, the game also includes daily and weekly challenges. These are changes based on existing maps – for example, the week in which I wrote this review had a Moscow challenge, which allowed unlimited roads but no motorways and a limited number of bridges (making the entire map incredibly challenging). These slight changes surprisingly make a dramatic difference to the gameplay.

Conclusion

Mini Motorways is a simple concept designed for a touch screen but elegantly adapted for PC, and retains every element of its captivating procedurally-generated gameplay with little to no compromise. What may seem simple on the surface has significant depth and will appeal to those who relish in high scores, trying their hardest to make it to the top of a leaderboard. More casual players too will receive plenty of enjoyment from Mini Motorways, though may already have had the option to play it on their handheld devices and there is no advantage to playing it again on PC. This is a game that can easily be enjoyed by anyone, so it’s worthwhile that those without iOS devices can finally try it out.

So, why should you play it?

  • You’re a fan of simple, procedurally generated gameplay.
  • Love trying to get the high score? This game is for you.
  • Crisp clean graphics and relaxing ambient soundtrack.
  • If you never had the chance to play it on iOS.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Have already played it on a handheld device.
  • If you prefer more complex strategy games.

A review code on PC was provided for the purpose of this review.
Mini Motorways is also coming to Nintendo Switch in Q1 2022.

ozgameshop FOR THE GAMERS

R-Type Final 2 Review – Nintendo Switch

This one’s for you if classic shoot ’em ups R your Type of game.

Originally released in 1987 into arcades across the globe, the original R-Type is widely celebrated and often referred to as one the best shoot ’em up games ever made. This quintessential title featured addictive side-scrolling gameplay, advanced graphics for the time with huge, detailed bosses, and punishingly-difficult gameplay designed to chew through your spare change. In fact, the original game became so popular that it has since been ported to over 15 different platforms!

Left to right: R-Type (arcade), R-Type (Gameboy), R-Type: Dimensions (PC)

It should come as no surprise that such a successful game would spawn a multitude of sequels, spin-offs and compilations. During the ’80s and ’90s the genre was booming, and the R-Type series saw three direct sequels during this time. However, with advances in gameplay and home gaming consoles, focus for shooting games turned from the humble shmup to the now massively-popular FPS. As one last hurrah, the developer Irem decided to release the series’ swansong on PlayStation 2: R-Type Final. Released in 2003, this was intended to be the “final” game in the series and featured a massive roster of 101 unlockable ships.

R-Type Final Playstation 2
The critically-acclaimed R-Type Final on PlayStation 2.

Plot twist: R-Type Final was not the final R-Type (much like Final Fantasy is not the final Final Fantasy).

Almost two decades later, a Twitter post surfaced on April Fool’s Day 2019, showing off a teaser trailer for the ironically-named R-Type Final 2. Much to the surprise of fans across the globe, this was no April Fool’s joke at all! Later that year a Kickstarter was launched touting the return of the iconic shmup, raising over $1,000,000USD thus reviving this beloved series. Now almost 18 years since the last main title, it’s time to once again blast your way through swarms of galactic aliens in R-Type Final 2 for Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PlayStation 4.

Premise

As a direct sequel to 2003’s R-Type Final, you take on the role of a lone pilot in an endless war against the Bydo, a mysterious galactic race waging war against humanity. Having struck the source of the Bydo in Final, humanity has been able to develop more advanced anti-Bydo weaponry in order to retaliate. With a vast array of aircraft and artillery now at your disposal, you’re tasked with recovering the remaining war records from the initial conflict and to put an end to the Bydo once and for all.

The story is paper thin, as is the case for most games that focus almost entirely on gameplay. At the beginning of the game you’ll be presented with brief interactions between characters to set the scene, but outside of this any aspects of the story are delivered through simple bonus descriptions that are found in the game’s gallery and manual.

Gameplay

This is where any shoot ’em up truly shines, and R-Type Final 2 is no exception. If you’ve played any other shmup game, you’ll immediately be familiar with the majority of the gameplay, which involves piloting a spacecraft through multiple levels, fending off hordes of enemies, and confronting a large boss at the end. It’s simple gameplay that has been refined over decades, but the basic concept is mostly unchanged. Each level is scattered with power-ups that will enhance your weaponry or provide unique weapons that are more powerful but focused, or weaker with the ability to clear the screen. There are also stereotypical charged attacks, which can be devastating but leave you open and vulnerable while charging.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Laser
The laser is slow but powerful, and useful against larger enemies.

R-Type, however, manages to set its gameplay apart from other shmups through its use of the Force (no Star Wars copyright infringement intended), a small independent ship that can be attached/detached which pilots and fires autonomously. Effectively utilising the Force is essential if you want to progress through R-Type, as without it you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed by enemies with no hope of clearing the screen. Power-ups to your ship will also transfer to the Force, and produce some unique attacks depending on whether it becomes attached to either the front of the rear of your ship. Some circumstances require quick management of this, as you’ll have enemies approaching from both sides of the screen.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Boss Fight
Using the Force to fire backwards is a vital tactic.

Difficulty is undoubtedly punishing, as is the case for most games in this genre, made more challenging in R-Type as your ship can only take a single hit and screens are often littered with bullets and hazards. You’ll most likely find yourself having to play through levels ad nauseum before finally gaining a grasp on patterns of attacks; though it is satisfying to pass through a level unscathed once you’ve had enough practice. There are also several different difficulty levels, which sadly I had to resort to playing on “Kids” difficulty for part of the game (this destroyed my fragile masculinity).

Visuals/Performance

Having played entirely on the Nintendo Switch, I started R-Type Final 2 with the expectation that the game’s visuals would be dumbed down in order to accommodate the handheld. Although this is partly the case, as this version of the game is not quite as visually-detailed, it is barely noticeable. The game’s cheesey sci-fi cutscenes are a pleasure to watch and environments retain an attractive sci-fi aesthetic befitting of the game’s tone.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Cutscene Visuals
The CGI cutscene at the beginning of the game looks excellent.

With detailed environments, particle effects aplenty, and a busy screen sometimes packed with projectiles, the game manages to perform incredibly well with very few drops in framerate. My gameplay was 50/50 handheld and docked during which I noticed very little difference in terms of performance. It’s a pleasant surprise to play a game with so much going on while having no compromise to the handheld mode.

Music

Composed by Yuki “Sato” Iwai, the soundtrack to R-Type Final 2 accompanies your journey through space and features the typical electronic beats that tend to be heard in shmup games. Having worked on several previous titles in the series (as well as quite a number of Mega Man games too!), Iwai creates tracks with a soundscape that are fitting for the aesthetic of each level. Although most are immemorable and none are particularly catchy, the songs will at least not get on your nerves after being heard repeatedly after each death.

Extra Features

Are you a completionist? If so, R-Type Final 2 is your dream. There is an absolute plethora of unlockable content for those that chase that elusive 100%. Completing levels will award you with currency that can be spent in the shop: unlocking decals for your ship, modifications to your space suit, or buying resources that can be spent on upgrades. There are 99 (probably even more!) different ships that can be developed in the museum and will likely keep completionists busy for hours on end. I managed to finish the game by unlocking only 17, as you’ll generally be able to find a model of ship that suits your style of gameplay.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Museum
You’ll spend quite a bit of time in the Museum upgrading your aircraft.

Strangely there has also been a photo mode added to the game, where you can dress up your pilot in different outfits, purchase silly poses, and stand alongside your spacecraft taking pictures with it. Photo modes are mostly suited to games with vast worlds and gorgeous, detailed environments (like Horizon Zero Dawn or Ghost of Tsushima), so this is an odd addition and feels incredibly out of place. Out of curiosity I briefly decided to give it a go and would likely never touch it again.

R-Type Final 2 Nintendo Switch Photo Mode
Not something I ever imagined I’d do in a shmup game.

Amusingly, you’ll also unlock the option to customise the game’s name from a set of chosen words upon completing the game. It’s simple, but I had far more fun messing around with this than the photo mode.

R-Type final 2 Nintendo Switch Custom Name
That’s the shmup where you play as a cloud, right?

Conclusion

With its classic gameplay, punishing difficulty, and enough content to keep you coming back for more, R-Type Final 2 is a modern shoot ’em up that successfully carries on the legacy of this iconic series. Fans of the genre will be elated to play R-Type Final 2, especially those who supported the Kickstarter and have been eagerly awaiting the release of the game. Though if you’re not a die-hard R-Type fan and instead just looking for an excellent shmup experience to play on the go, this should be at the top of your list. Be warned though, as this game is not for the faint of heart and may instead be a trial by fire for those unfamiliar with the genre.

So, why should you play it?

  • If you’re a fan of shoot ’em ups, you’d be mad to pass up on this.
  • One of the best arcade-style shooters on the Switch.
  • Completionists will be overjoyed at the amount of unlockable content.
  • An excellent challenge to test your gaming skills.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • If you’re completely new to shoot ’em ups, try one that is more forgiving.
  • Poor reaction times? Not the game for you, as your ship only takes a single hit.
  • Those not fond of playing the same stages numerous times should avoid this game.

A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.

ozgameshop FOR THE GAMERS

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection Review – Nintendo Switch

You’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.” – Ronald Weasley on Ghosts n’ Goblins: Resurrection (probably)

If you grew up playing video games in the ’80s or ’90s, chances are you had some exposure to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series: a side-scrolling platformer known for its notoriously brutal difficulty, unforgiving gameplay, and protagonist Arthur who strips down to his boxers to rescue his beloved princess. What started as an arcade game (no doubt designed to chew through unsuspecting children’s quarters) eventually gained enough popularity to garner entries on almost every gaming platform ever made, as well as numerous spin-off games (including the much-beloved Gargoyle’s Quest/Demon’s Crest).

Above: the original arcade release, Ghosts ‘n Goblins on NES, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on SNES, and Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins on PSP.

Well, for those masochists out there that played the previous games and didn’t drown in a pool of their own tears, or crumble under the sheer weight of their own shame, the series has been Resurrected and finds its way onto Nintendo Switch with a brand new entry: Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection.

PLOT/PREMISE

Do you play a Ghosts ‘n Goblins game for the plot? Of course not. Though they still added one anyway. Like a storybook, the game quite literally unfolds in a scroll to reveal Arthur and Princess Guinevere enjoying stroll on a grassy knoll (as royalty are oft to do), when the helpless Princess is picked up and carried away by demonic forces. Princesses have a tendency to get into situations like this, because why else would our heroic protagonist venture through so many treacherous circumstances if not for love? It’s cliché, and almost identical to all the previous games, but this doesn’t really detract from the game in any way.

Ghosts and Goblins Resurrection PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Xbox
Don’t you hate when demons steal your princess before you can even put some clothes on?

In order to save the Princess, you’re required to navigate through numerous hazard-filled levels, scattered with demonic forces who will stop at nothing to break Arthur’s armour and see him humiliated in his boxer shorts. It’s a simple premise that newcomers will find easily approachable and does not stray far from the original formula, which will please series veterans.

Ghosts and Goblins Resurrection PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Xbox Map
The first few levels in the game, which kindly allow you to choose how you’re going to die.

GAMEPLAY

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And Capcom has done just that: changed very little in Resurrection. Gameplay is what you would expect from the series, with multiple challenging levels combining tricky platforming with punishing enemy placement, and massive boss fights that will have you almost throwing your controllers in frustration. Arthur can take multiple hits as his armour dismantles, however powerups are plentiful and seem strategically-placed alongside checkpoints to help you with some of the more difficult segments.

Ghosts and Goblins Resurrection PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Xbox Red Arremer
Yep, the infamous Red Arremer is back too, and still as annoying as ever.

Combat is a crucial aspect of Ghosts ‘n Goblins – you are given access to 8 different weapons which are dropped at random by enemies or found in chests throughout the level. Some have significant reach like the lance, while others hit closer but deal heavy damage like the hammer, as a result you will have to choose the best weapon for your situation. You’re also locked into attacking in only four directions adding to the retro feel of the game. Though this combat might feel archaic in any other brand new game, it seems fitting for Resurrection, as the gameplay feels just as it did decades ago.

Ghosts and Goblins Resurrection PS4 PS5 Nintendo Switch Xbox Lance
Arthur’s signature lance attack, the starting weapon in the game.

Some neat additions have been included in Resurrection, most notably its adjustable difficulty. The player can choose difficulty (Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Legend) at the beginning of a level and on the fly. After dying you’ll be prompted whether you’d like to swap to an easier difficulty. It’s nice to have the option, even if I ignored it the entire time for risk of damaging my own pride.

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Seriously considered turning down the difficulty for this area. But I powered on!

Levels are now scattered with Umbral Bees, which appear like floating spirits that can be collected on contact. Some of these are in very precarious locations, or require quite a bit of skill to collect. These can be spent on a literal skill tree, which will unlock attacks, passive and active abilities that can be used during gameplay. Equipping these to your Magic Waistband will unleash devastating attacks to decimate enemies on-screen, or my personal favourite which duplicates Arthur and any of his attacks.

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One of the first special abilities, which launches lightning across the screen.

If you’d rather not suffer alone, you can now die alongside a friend! The addition of a co-op mode lets player two join in as one of spirits, each of which have unique abilities that can aid Arthur in his quest. It’s a simple addition, but if you’ve got somebody willing to assist, it might just give you that extra leg-up you need to overcome a tricky level.

VISUALS/DESIGN

Without a doubt the most unique aspects of the game are its visuals and artistic direction. The entire game, menus, environments, enemies and bosses are all designed as if they belong in a picture book. It can be a bit jarring for those who have played previous Ghouls ‘n Ghosts games and will likely polarise many players. While I found it to be a bit odd at first, the aesthetic soon grew on me and I eventually found it to be not only quite attractive on the small Switch screen, but very fitting considering the level design moves across like an animated scroll.

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The picture book-style visuals are especially noticeable during the game’s boss fights.

Where the previous games in the series have been either pixel art or quite simplistic 3D designs, the new art style of Resurrection seems to offer a refreshing take on existing characters/enemies and adds a level of detail not seen in the series.

SOUNDTRACK

If you’ve played the previous games, you’re probably more than familiar with many other songs you’ll hear in Resurrection. You’ll probably also have slight PTSD hearing them too. What’s brilliant about the soundtrack to Resurrection is how it incorporates the original chiptunes. In paying homage to many of the original songs, the actual chiptunes play at the same time alongside orchestral rearrangements of the songs. It’s almost as if you took a medieval band and a baroque orchestra and you gave them a Gameboy and said, “play this futuristic instrument.”

Most of the themes loop regularly, and you’ll hear them repeat constantly with each death, but I never found them to be grating. The composers have made music for some notable Capcom titles, including Marvel vs. Capcom, Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter. Overall it’s a short but sweet soundtrack coming in at 35 minutes, but cleverly blends chiptunes into vastly-different musical styles.

CONCLUSION

Visuals and minor changes aside, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection brings back classic retro gameplay that feels just as if it could have been released 20 – 30 years ago. Though this may not appeal to some, it’s a game that is fuelled by nostalgia and will certainly please existing fans of the series. In introducing difficulty levels that can be changed on the fly, Resurrection makes the series more approachable for those who aren’t skilled at platformers or become easily frustrated by failure.

So why should you play it?

  • You like challenging games (or are a masochist).
  • Looking for a game that can be enjoyed in short bursts.
  • You’d prefer simple, arcade-style gameplay over complex games.
  • You’ve previously played and enjoyed any of the other Ghosts ‘n Goblins titles.

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • If you become easily-frustrated by failure.
  • You’re not a fan of retro games.
  • Not good at platformers? This is not the game for you.

A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.