It used to be rare to see a game with unique visual aesthetics - odd experiments like Vib Ribbon or Echochrome were hardly the norm. Thanks to the indie-game revolution, we're now blessed with myriad studios breaking from the norm. Count Metrico developer Digital Dreams among this group. This puzzle game is brilliantly realized. Using charts, bar graphs, and line graphs as a basic design language, Digital Dreams weaves bewitching and surreal environments. Coupled with a chilly ambient electronic score, the game is triumph of minimalist design. The levels contain small visual cues, some intended to aid and others to deceive; it's the rare game where every detail feels methodically placed.
The gameplay starts out simply, as the goal is always the same: Advance your onscreen character past the various moving platforms and obstacles to get to the next screen. The levels can be manipulated with proportional movements or action; jumping might raise one platform and lower another, while another stretches and shrinks as you run from side to side.
At its best, Metrico is one of the best puzzle games I've played in ages, forcing you to reexamine your assumptions about how the world works and how you're supposed to approach a given challenge. If something seems impossible, it's because you're not looking at it the right way - which generates those "a-ha!" moments that are the true appeal of the genre.
Metrico was designed specifically for the Vita, something that sometimes enhances - but often hinders - the experience. I like the way the game layers on mechanics as you progress; I just wish they were more polished. You start being able to do little more than jump and move, but eventually gain the ability to shoot small projectiles (and aim them with the Vita's back touch panel, which can be frustrating at times). Puzzles that use the Vita's tilt functionality and camera are shaky at best and aggravating at worst. The tilt puzzles frequently had me twisting my neck to view the game as I rotated the system 90 degrees or more. Toward the end, a mechanic is added that requires you to use the Vita camera to move platforms, but it's hard to use and confusing. I believe it has to do with overall light exposure and red, green, and blue colors. You're going to have to experiment on your own, because the game often doesn't explain these new mechanics. I found a system that worked for me that involved pointing the camera at combinations of my coffee mug, desktop, and office window - and I still couldn't tell you exactly how it all worked.
While I love that Metrico doesn't hold your hand, there were times when I felt I could have used a bit more to hang on to - especially the levels where some of the on-screen "hints" are actually obfuscating the true course of action. However, for every moment of frustration, there were greater feelings of pride and the thrill of discovery. Metrico isn't a perfect game, but it's one worth playing for fans of the puzzle games. The fact that it has one of the most ingenious art styles of the year is only icing on the cake.