Metrico should be lauded for its creativity. Instead of using static blocks and a fantastical setting, this abstract puzzler hinges on scalable, everyday infographics the size and placement of which are beholden to your actions. Few people jump out of their seats to play with pie charts, line graphs, and bar diagrams, but developer Digital Dreams has managed to take the mundane and make it feel otherworldly in its PlayStation Vita debut. There's nothing else like it, but unfortunately, a novel concept and brazen soundtrack aren't enough to overcome a frustrating control scheme and often-empty set of challenges. There are flashes of brilliance born from the dozens of geographic puzzles, but the highs in Metrico aren't high enough to erase the lows.
"Input Morphing" is the term used to describe the adjustments you make to the environment, as different features of the world around you change shape, position, and orientation based on the location and action of your character. Moving left or right on the X-axis may raise or lower a single block on screen that's jamming the exit, while jumping up or down on the Y-axis could shift a longer pillar across the screen. You move from world to world, each of which contains multiple puzzles that increase in difficulty as you progress, with the conclusion of every world giving you the option of leaving through one of two colored doors.
How do your decisions impact the journey? That, along with your character's motivation for moving from start to finish, is unclear. Metrico creates the illusion of choice, and for a few moments, it feels like it's building to something greater than itself. However, the lack of a tangible narrative leaves too much for the player to decipher. I welcome ambiguity, but by the very end, I felt more lost than enlightened.
The ever-increasing difficulty stems from the fresh mechanics introduced in each of the six worlds. As you progress, you learn to shoot projectiles with a simple touch of the screen. Floating platforms swing left and right as you swivel and turn the Vita, and the camera even comes into play as you uncover gameplay hooks that take full advantage of the Vita's many inputs. Metrico quickly builds in complexity as you conquer screen after screen, but it sacrifices fluidity. It can be cumbersome to tilt your Vita--and often your body--to the exact angle being asked, all while using your camera, tapping the screen, and making a big jump. I frequently found myself spinning my machine every which way to move a bar graph to its maximum height in order to progress, struggling to get a grip on the sensitivity.
How do your decisions impact the journey? That, along with your character's motivation for moving from start to finish, is unclear.
It can feel like mobile Twister, and this helter-skelter scheme had me yearning for greater precision as I watched my silhouetted hero fall to his death over and over again. The puzzles themselves aren't so complex that you're left banging your head against the wall until the solution rudely slaps you across the face, but the actual difficulty of performing the necessary actions turns some levels into a slog.
When it all works in concert, though, the vision becomes clear. You're not told which piece of geometry will be altered as you move to the right, eliminate an enemy with your projectiles, or even fall to your death. In the more multifaceted levels, almost every action has a reaction, and there's an undeniable joy that comes from unraveling it all yourself. You're briefly shown what certain buttons or movements do once you begin a new world, but from there, it's up to you to actually take advantage of that ability to make it to the right side of the screen. Experimentation is paramount to success, and when the game's mechanics aren't pushing back, Metrico delivers the goods.
The most consistent facet of Metrico is its presentation, which beautifully blends its colorful edges with a soothing synthetic soundtrack. The particular visual style of each world is wonderfully complemented by its corresponding music, with each action resulting in a distinct auditory ripple. Sounds erupt and shapes appear as you scale new obstacles, but the most notable feat is that Metrico manages to remain aesthetically stimulating from start to finish. The many shades of purple, blue, and red you encounter wouldn't be nearly as striking without the accompanying melodies that fit like a glove.
Metrico looks and sounds the part of a critical darling, but laborious controls and empty narrative agency mar this chromatic trip. The many mechanics introduced from world to world often enrich the multiple puzzles you encounter, and the joy that comes from cracking the game's most complex codes is sublime. However, the erratic sensitivity of the Vita's motion control and overly indistinct theme hold Metrico back from being more than a fleeting curiosity.