Last year, I had the chance to interview Casey Lucas-Quaid (Community Manager at Dinosaur Polo Club). Back then, I had played Mini Motorways on PC/Mac and iOS (iPhone and iPad). Casey had mentioned that the game would also be coming to the Nintendo Switch at some point. Now that Mini Motorways is out on Nintendo Switch, I can finally put together my thoughts on the differences on each platform.
“Mini Motorways is a game about drawing the roads that drive a growing city. Build a road network, one road at a time, to create a bustling metropolis. Redesign your city to keep the traffic flowing, and carefully manage upgrades to meet the changing demands. How long can you keep the cities of the world moving?”
-from Dinosaur Polo Club’s website
Each run begins with one home and one destination. You must simply connect the two by drawing a road. As time passes, new destinations and homes appear. It’s fascinating how the map starts off very focused and tightly zoomed into these two opening locations. As you play the camera slowly pans out until you have a giant collection of homes, destinations, roads and more. Throughout gameplay you unlock new upgrades to help keep your city going: bridges, tunnels, roundabouts, traffic lights, highways and more.
Here’s a slideshow of the progression through a level (don’t worry I also have a few gameplay videos to share).
GDC 2022 Talk
Earlier this year, I had the chance to talk to two more Dinos, Tana Tanoi (Game Developer/Tech Designer) and Lucy Weekley (Senior Quality Assurance Analyst), during GDC 2022. Rather than outsource the porting process for Mini Motorways, the Dinosaur Polo Club team put in the work themselves to make the game feel right on each platform (PC/Mac, iOS and now Nintendo Switch).
This is what I think makes this game special. Jumping from one platform to another you can feel the slight differences in the controls that were created to make the game run smoothly on each platform. Sure, different players may experience some minor problems on each platform, but no version feels like a lesser version of the game. There are times when a game gets ported to mobile from console or PC (or vice versa) and it just feels like a dumbed-down version of the game — this is not the case with Mini Motorways.
Mini Motorways was first released on Apple Arcade (iOS) on September 19th, 2019. The game later came to Steam (PC/Mac) on July 20, 2021. Last week, May 11, 2022 the game finally came to Nintendo Switch. Over the years, Dinosaur Polo Club has continued to support Mini Motorways with new maps and updates — including the most recent update, car headlamps for night mode.
During our chat, Tana even mentioned some updates and mechanics the team had thought of but never worked out. Updates like drawbridges and boats. It’s cool to know that the team continues to think of new ideas they may be able to implement into the game, both big and small.
I had talked to Casey, and later Tana and Lucy about theories that players had for what was really going on in this world. When I asked if the narrative team had written out a backstory for this game, Tana told me that it was sort of left open for the players to create their own story about what was really happening in these towns.
Since I started playing this game during the pandemic I had told Casey that I believed the cars were all delivering packages, groceries and food to these homes in lockdown. I believe one of her theories was about people dropping off pets.
Not all games need a strict story to them. It’s fun for us players to be able to imagine our own backstories for certain games.
I began my Mini Motorways journey on PC and Mac (via Steam) last year. The ideal way to play here was using a mouse, and only a mouse. There was no need for a keyboard. Using the mouse is very accurate for drawing routes and adding in motorways, roundabouts and other upgrades. I did however find myself messing up my roadways from time to time. That’s ok though, you can always erase roads and remove/replace upgrades.
I am sort of a sloppy mouse user. Even with my high-end gaming mouse, I do end up clicking on the wrong program and opening iTunes over Google Chrome about once a week. To be fair they are right next to each other on my PC’s toolbar.
iPhone/iPad (Apple Arcade)
Next, I tried out the game on iOS. Since I had subscribed to Apple Arcade, that made the game free-to-play. I found that my iPad was much better of a canvas for these cities than my smaller iPhone screen.
The touch controls are great, but better on the iPad with more space. While using a mouse allows you to use left click to add roads and right click to erase, it was a bit annoying to have to switch from add to erase mode by clicking a button on the side with your finger.
Maybe it’s because Dinosaur Polo Club started out with this touch screen version that it feels so great. Perhaps it’s going from PC to mobile that brings problems?
The Switch is sort of a hybrid between the two previous versions of Mini Motorways, using your controller/Joy-Con is a bit like using a mouse. You control a cursor. I will add that the cursor features the perfect amount of weight for easily moving and building roads. I rarely mess up when playing with my Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, even when drawing a curvy, windy road.
Once you move from docked mode to handheld you also gain the option of touch controls using the Nintendo Switch display. This is something we don’t see many games take advantage of on the Nintendo Switch. In fact, I sometimes forget that the Switch has touch controls. Since many games are played mostly in docked mode, I’m guessing developers don’t want to waste their time with the touch control implementation.
I started off in handheld mode, using touch and joy-con controls. When I popped my Nintendo Switch into the dock to record some gameplay I was mesmerized by the look of this game on my 55-inch LG 4K TV. Prior to then I had only played Mini Motorways on my PC monitor, iPad/iPhone and my Switch in handheld mode. This simple colorful art style really pops on a big screen. Even without the use of touch controls, playing on a big screen with my Nintendo Switch Pro Controller may be my favorite way to play. I wonder if it looks even better on a Nintendo Switch OLED?
Where to Play?
Mini Motorways is a super chill and relaxing adventure, until it’s not. Once you reach a certain point the roads become chaotic. There’s traffic, cars are all over, and destinations are blinking and beeping because everyone is running late.
Even with all of that chaos, you never feel like a loser. Sure, you get that Game Over screen notifying you that your city has shut down, but you are also getting good news. You find out how many days you survived and how many commuters traveled to their destination. It’s saying, “Sorry, your city shut down, but here’s how you did.” It’s a record-breaking, high score game. Can you beat your best score? What about your friends?
Now that Mini Motorways is on the Nintendo Switch, I think I finally found my perfect nighttime/bedtime game. This is the perfect game to knock out a map right before bed, it’s also relaxing enough that it works better than melatonin.
I would suggest that the perfect place to play Mini Motorways depends on the player and their controller preference. Are you more of a mouse/PC gamer, or touch controls on Apple Arcade, maybe you want a little bit of both. I guess my main place to continue playing Mini Motorways is the Nintendo Switch. Also, I was able to transfer my Steam save, which was helpful since I had some high scores in each level there. Now, let’s see if I can beat those high scores before bed time.
No matter where you choose to play Mini Motorways, I think you’ll have a great experience.
Mini Motorways is out now on Apple Arcade, PC/Mac (via Steam) and Nintendo Switch.