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Metrico: The Vita game about pie charts, bar graphs and platforming


The developers at Digital Dreams don't hold degrees in mathematics or business, nor are they big statistics nerds, but their first Vita game, Metrico, takes place entirely on a landscape of bar graphs, pie charts, percentages and angles. If anything, CEO Thijmen Bink and Lead Designer Gene Nellen resemble the character jumping around the numerical landscape – a man in a hoodie.

Well, it's the silhouette of a man in a hoodie: Metrico is a clean, crisp platformer in a minimalistic art style, with 3D objects shaded in flat, friendly blues, pinks and grays. It's intended to draw focus on the character's movements and how his actions impact the environment. Jump and the platform in front of him may rise with each leap. Walk back and forth and another platform might shrink, making it possible to jump on top and continue.

Bink and Nellen want players to notice how often they perform certain actions, such as walking to the left or hopping up and down, and the shifting graphs visualize these motions in ways that can't be ignored, since at times an errant leap can make a section impossible to complete.

I played a pre-alpha version of Metrico, and it still has a long way to go, but the core mechanics and goals of the game are there. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Sound Shapes, a game that doesn't try to disguise what it is – it's a platformer and it strives to do platforming well, first and foremost.

In the levels I played, Metrico succeeded at this goal. I traveled through the first world and part of the second, encountering roughly 10 puzzles, and I felt more intelligent as the stages progressed (even though Bink and Nellen were watching me, probably holding back laughter at my silly mistakes). I learned that it's sometimes dangerous to jump into a scenario – literally, jump into it – without knowing first what that action will spark in the coming terrain. It's possible to destroy any chance of completing a puzzle before even entering it, simply by taking a few extra steps or recklessly messing around with the jump button.

This trial-and-error is built into the game – in the second world, a "teleport" portal appears at the beginning of each puzzle, and pressing the circle button brings sweatshirt boy back to the start. It's a quick transition from realizing failure and restarting with a new strategy, and it works well.

Metrico The Vita game about pie charts, bar graphs and platforming
Metrico adds twists to the platforming genre, allowing players to alter the environment and to shoot projectiles with an angle-measurement mechanic. Bar graphs that sprout in front of the hooded man come with percentage bubbles, indicating how big they are and how much bigger (or smaller) they can get. Most objects have a label, whether it's the player's current position along an X or Y axis, or the size of the next platform, and all of these numbers provide constant, live feedback to the player.

The game uses the Vita's back touchpad to aim those projectiles, and Digital Dreams wants to play with the device's hardware even more, perhaps using the gyroscope, audio inputs or camera-based challenges.

These stylistic tweaks wouldn't work if the game wasn't already a solid platformer, and so far it is. It's clear that Digital Dreams focused on gameplay first, then the tone of the game, and lastly the story. One thing that nags me is the story behind this graph-inspired world – why is this guy running around spreadsheets? Bink and Nellen assure me that there is a narrative that should dispel these concerns, but it is all about the gameplay, in the end.

They want Metrico to be memorable, and not just because it's numerical. Metrico is due out, tentatively, in Q1 2014 for the Vita.

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