Platformers aren’t supposed to have math. They’re just not. However, we’re seeing more innovative concepts than ever before in the world of interactive entertainment, and Digital Dream’s Metrico is indicative of this creative explosion. It’s a fantastic idea: In an age when the visual is prominent, when people don’t have the requisite attention spans for fully detailed statistical reports, the “infographic” has taken over. Building off this tremendous popularity, the designers created a video game that puts the player in command of those numbers…well, sort of.
The game has been in development for some time, as the team created several prototypes that didn’t quite work. But their most recent build won an Indiepub award in 2012 in the category of Best Design, after which Digital Dreams hooked up with Sony to produce the game for the PlayStation Vita. Using the Pub Fund program, the developers sought to bring a unique and compelling experience to the portable world. The best part is that this game’s mechanics are perfect for Sony’s handheld, which is always essential. Nobody wants to struggle through a platformer with cumbersome, awkward control, and this has been a hurdle in the portable world.
Basically, players will leap through pie charts, line graphics, bar diagrams, etc, and these diagrams “constantly change based on your actions, movements and input.” This is known as “Input Morphing,” and it’ll be interesting to see how it all works. For instance a bar shrinks when you move, but grows when you fire a projectile, or there’s a pie chart that shows how many times you’ve died. Then there’s a triangle plot that shows the relation between your horizontal and vertical movement of the Vita itself. The key is to plan and execute accordingly, because a mistake could result in a closed path.
To put it plainly, if you screw up, you may find that the next platform is unreachable. You’ll have to perform a few experiments to see what works best, so I hope you don’t have any problem with trial-and-error gameplay. As the developers said, the real challenge lies in “figuring out what each infographic conveys and being able to think outside of the box.” In other words, you’re actually encouraged to think like an analyst, but react like a gamer. At least, that’s what it sounds like, right? Perhaps upon completing a certain level, you’ll have a slightly better understanding about how all that number-crunching works.
Metrico features a concept that, on the surface, seems like a teacher’s bad joke. But it’s not tricking you into learning; it’s pure entertainment based on a very complex and interesting science. I suppose the only concern I have relates to the core gameplay mechanics; if the designers put all their time and effort into conceiving of and implementing that unique concept, they might’ve skimped on the basics. I’ve seen it happen many times before, especially with smaller teams: Great idea, poor execution. I don’t expect that this time, though; from what I’ve seen, this one looks pretty solid. Gonna have to give it a try.
7/18/2014 Ben Dutka