Metrico review: moving pieces

Metrico is buried underneath too many kinds of input

Game Info
Platform PS Vita
Publisher N/A
Developer Digital Dreams
Release Date TBA

I get the feeling that the developers of Metrico never watched Jurassic Park.

An exclusive for the PlayStation Vita, at first, Metrico evokes a lot of the same aesthetic and charm of action puzzle games that have shined on the platform — most specifically, 2012's Soundshapes. Its stark visual aesthetic of flat gradient figures on a geometric world, full of pie charts and bar graphs combines with an ambient electronic score and sound effects to create a sense of place and feel that few games match.

But Metrico also falls prey to that common boondoggle of Sony's handheld that so many other exclusives eye warily, using literally every input method that the Vita allows, demanding them in fact. Often at the same time. And for the umpteenth time that I stared at my screen blankfaced, willing some kind of cue or piece of illuminating information from it as I tapped the screen while moving my fingers across the back panel and rotated the Vita left and right, forward and back, I wondered how Metrico could have gone so, so wrong.

metrico screen 1

Metrico has the so-simple-it-isn't-really-there type of premise of so many character-driven puzzle games. You control a male or female avatar, running or jumping in a bizarre, shifting world of shapes and color. The way you interact with the environment causes various effects, or, rather, just a couple — objects move corresponding to a specific kind of action. Some platforms raise every time you jump. Some move left or right when you move left or right. Some will only move right. Some will only move right when you walk right — an important distinction when you need them to move farther right than there is walking space.

The puzzles start simply, requiring a little attention and basic platforming skills, but Metrico ramps it up with more complicated puzzles soon enough. But much of the game's difficulty results from its refusal to explain what's required to make anything in its stages happen.

Specifically, there's no marker, no visual indication for most of the game as to what you need to do to make the pieces of each stage move where you need them. You'll have to rely on every puzzle game's least favorite party guest, trial and error. In fact, Metrico relies so heavily on resetting puzzles that it introduces one method of doing so — specifically, circle-shaped checkpoints — only to transform that into a game mechanic later while introducing an entirely new way to reset puzzles instead.

Metrico uses every input method available on the Vita

This is Metrico's undoing for a simple, catastrophic reason: it uses every input method on the Vita console. Feel free to let me know if I'm missing anything: rotating the console left or right, forward or back; tapping the touch screen; using the back panel as a mousepad; and, finally, and most maddeningly perhaps, using the rear-facing camera — most maddening because it's used as a light sensor that causes different in-world results based on the color of light it's being aimed at.

This is where the island tour is attacked by the Tyrannosaurus, to bring this back to my original statement. To paraphrase the character of Malcolm in Jurassic Park — in what we'll call the "Goldblum Conundrum," if you will — developer Digital Dreams seems so fixated on what they could possibly cram into Metrico's litany of control demands that it never stopped to ask if it should.

A literal description of one moment during my playthrough of Metrico: I aimed with my fingers on the back panel as I tapped on the right bumper, carefully, to shoot at rolling objects as I tilted the Vita forward and back — carefully shooting because each shot caused a platform to move.

This was required of me. This is a thing that Metrico made me do. And I have to wonder if anyone ever asked why. The sheer number of potential means of making things happen on screen and Metrico's poor communication skills make for a regular exercise in frustration. It poisons everything — the music that I liked at first eventually became an irritating drone, and the slick interlocking fragments of a world that slid apart and fit together so uniquely were splinters of misery by the end of my time there.

Wrap Up:

Metrico is buried underneath too many kinds of input

I've never felt as beaten with the Goldblum Conundrum in a game as I did with Metrico. It does so much so right so quickly in the beginning that its subsequent avalanche of inputs felt like the worst kind of betrayal. Metrico takes its concept and buries it under needless complication, and there's not much left to recommend underneath all that wreckage.

Metrico was reviewed using pre-release "retail" code provided by the developer. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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5.0 PS Vita