Metrico is the first effort by fledgling Dutch studio Digital Dreams, but you wouldn't guess that by looking at it. Featuring incredibly striking art design, and seemingly solid gameplay, it looks like the work of a much more mature developer. But is this algebraic adventure a balanced equation, or is it using the wrong formulas?

This indie puzzler is all about graphs: bar graphs, line graphs, pie graphs – all of these high school maths class horrors can be found in abundance in the game. But rather than serving as mere window dressing, these deadly diagrams are intricately woven into the title’s gameplay.

For instance, several levels monitor how many times you’ve jumped, and then convert this number into the slowly rising column of a bar graph. Thus, your traversal through the stage is limited to a very specific number of jumps. This concept is expanded upon throughout the game, with some of the later challenges requiring truly economical movement.

The madness doesn’t stop there, though, as the puzzler also makes use of the Vita’s hardware in several unique ways. Those graphs can be affected by tilting your handheld into the sorts of odd and uncomfortable positions that would make a contortionist blush. And while this can be a lot of fun, it also gets a little tiresome. In particular, one late-game use of the system’s camera is nifty, but can be frustratingly imprecise.

All of this makes for a central gameplay conceit that, while unique, just isn’t terribly captivating. There’s definitely a lot of fun to be had here, but several levels feel more like a slog than a summer stroll. You’ll often find yourself almost completing a stage only to realise that you made one tiny mistake, and now have to redo the entire thing.

As far as story is concerned, it is entirely possible that there’s some semblance of a narrative or overarching theme that ties all of these disparate elements together, but we certainly couldn’t figure it out. There’s something to be said for subtly in storytelling, but this purportedly profound puzzler probably takes the concept a little too far.

It’s also important to note that this is quite a short game – almost to the point of making the whole thing feel rushed. And while there’s certainly much more depth here than in your average tech demo, the experimental nature of the gameplay coupled with the short running time means that it sometimes feels like one.

What absolutely doesn’t feel rushed, though, is the game’s presentation. The visual style is clean, colourful, and most importantly of all, incredibly consistent throughout. Every stage feels like a guided tour through a different school of graphical design, with thin lines jutting through bold slabs of pastel blues and pinks to create the ubiquitous infographics. Many of these mathematical marvels pulse and pound in conjunction with your movement, which is often an absolute joy to behold.

What’s more, the puzzler also features one of the most outstanding soundtracks in recent memory; a collection of tunes that are so expertly married to the other elements of the game that it almost beggars belief. From shimmering synths to tribal Talking Heads–esque concoctions, this is a set of songs that really deserves to be enjoyed through headphones.

Conclusion

Metrico is a visual and auditory delight: a sumptuous treat of a game with presentation that consistently impresses. However, a short running time, combined with occasionally shonky controls and a slightly frustrating central premise means that its gameplay never really lives up to its grand graphical grace.