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Review | Mole Control

Mole Control (PC)
Format: PC | Genre: Puzzle | Publisher: Blitz 1UP | Developer: Remode | Release date: 20/01/10 | RRP: £9.99

Minesweeper. Realistically, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out we’ve all spent more time playing that free little Windows game over the years than anything else in the world. In terms of joyous simplicity, if we’re really honest, it’s probably among the most perfect games as well.

By adding a great deal more complexity, then, Mole Control suffers. Not immediately, mind. It’s initially a rather charming affair. It is to Minesweeper what Bookworm Adventures is to Boggle: a classic game, given a new spin, a story, and great lashings of indie cute. There’s a lovely soundtrack that bounces along delightfully, and it’s rendered in pleasant, vibrant 3D. As you plod along on your seated mole detector, attempting to rid the area’s gardens of the pests, you’ll uncover a sinister plot and a variety of agreeably silly side-stories. It’s well made. It works. It’s Minesweeper.

It’s a shame, then, that there’s an unfortunate heap of problems holding Mole Control back. There’s no camera control, it instead scrolling sideways as you trundle along. It feels uncomfortable – the game being rendered in full 3D, it feels like a curious omission, and one that’s strangely unfamiliar. It also means being completely unable to clearly see the patches of grass close to the nearside wall of a given garden. In a game as reliant on spatial awareness as Minesweeper, it’s a huge issue, one that’s likely to end in a terrible explosion on more than a couple of occasions.

More fundamentally, though, many of Mole Control’s stages are just too bloody big. In a game of Minesweeper in its more traditional form, there’s an eager sense of self-betterment to be found through gradually increasing the grid size and ramping up the amount of mines to detect. When you find yourself blown into oblivion, with just a few squares left to uncover, Mole Control (PC)it’s a nightmare – but you’re still compelled to start over again, to beat your previous record.

Mole Control, though, is a story-driven version of Minesweeper. There are additional time trial challenges, sure, but this isn’t really about the high score board. This is about uncovering a knowingly silly and adorable story, whose next section only unlocks with the successful completion of a set of stages. Managing to detect 58 out of a total of 60 moles, after a good 20 minutes of careful mole-sweeping, only to have your face blown off right at the end… it is an absolute nightmare.

So when this happens three, four or five times in a row, and you suddenly realise you’ve failed to make any progress whatsoever in several hours, the game starts to get rather tiresome.

Which is a shame, as this is a lovingly crafted indie game with a real identity. It’s impossible to hate, certainly. And the clever ways in which the game introduces new mole types, which grant you various new abilities, is something to be commended.

But Mole Control’s greatest strength is the fact that it’s Minesweeper, and its weaknesses are mainly down to its attempts to do more than that. I’ll always get behind ideas, but this doesn’t always incorporate them successfully. By Lewis Denby


What does this score mean?

Mole Control is available for purchase from the game’s website.

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