Developer: Crunching Koalas
Reviewed for PlayStation 3 and PC, available on PSVita and PlayStation 4
I’m sure all of us at one point or another have rooted for lab mice to rise up against their evil scientist overlords, right? If you have.. well… that’s a bit weird, but MouseCraft will not be the game for you. You will find no mice but the mindless variety and not only are they taking part in an experiment, you are too.
MouseCraft mixes the gameplay of Lemmings and Tetris (if you don’t know what Tetris is, I’m afraid we must now part ways). Under the supervision of the evil overlord scientist cat Schrödinger, you are responsible for guiding each of three mice to safety and cheesy goodness using only a variety of Tetris-like blocks and a generous sense of timing.
The mice walk from left to right unless they reach an obstacle. Very quickly this default behavior becomes part of nearly every solution as you let one mouse through but deflecting the others so that you time your runs perfectly. As they walk, they will find bombs and shards (the former used to blow up blocks and the latter used as a currency to move through each of the four primary map areas). Blocks come in a variety of types: standard, jelly, electrical (and deadly), exploding, impervious, and reusable. These blocks are used to navigate the mice through water, over acid, off high falls, and to reach out of the way places to find those elusive shards.
All these environmental variables, coupled with the crazy timing wizardry, resulted in elation when I pulled it all off and saw my three mousy charges gleefully eating up their prize.
However, with 80 levels, the pacing from level to level and the introduction new mechanics was an issue for me. I found myself particularly early in the game simply zoning out as I performed the same acts over and over. This was especially true for levels that no amount of tinkering on my point provided an answer and I was left either abandoning a mouse or shard (or more often consulting Youtube) in order to move on.
Exacerbating these issues were the flat characters. The Pixar-ish visuals promised a depth of story that the game never delivered on. A few short cutscenes were all the story given and I never cared about what I was doing for more than the gameplay.
In addition to the core game, MouseCraft also has a level editor where you can edit, save, and play custom built levels. The interface is intuitive and it was cool seeing what I could come up with. Levels are saved locally and we did not see any way to share levels online. This might be fixed later on, but is, sadly, not functional at this point
Family Gaming Assessment
There are some animations of the mice dying and floating to the heavens as ghost, and an option during the levels to “Kill Mice” that lets you move forward if one of your mice has gotten stuck. I would have liked different wording so that I didn’t feel guilty whenever I had to use it.
This is a difficult game. Young children will have a hard time getting through most of the stages without assistance, although older children might find it challenging but doable (perhaps more than my aging brain could muster).
MouseCraft was at times frustrating and at others a bit slow in progressing, but it was also rewarding when you finally pulled off the solution to a hard level. The gameplay was a unique mashup of old favorites, though the storyline and characters were shallow and uninteresting. If you are looking for a good puzzler, this is a quality choice that will have your brain spinning in a wheel.
It is worth noting that MouseCraft is “Cross-buy and Cross-Save” compatible. This means that if you purchase the game on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 or on PSVita then you will be able to download the game on the other system at no charge. This is an added value that is worth mentioning especially if your family has both a PS3/PS4 and a Vita.
Let us know what you think of MouseCraft in the comments!
*Disclosure: A review copy of the game was provided by the developers.