If you were to describe, MouseCraft in one sentence, it would probably be, ‘Lemmings crossed with Tetris……but, you know, with mice’. Yeah, that just about sums up this rather old-fashioned but nonetheless highly enjoyable puzzler from Crunching Koalas. It’s far from innovative and certainly wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but for the most part, MouseCraft is more than the sum of its well-worn parts and subsequently stands as one of the finest puzzle games of the current-gen.
Despite some ridiculous story concerning a mad cat scientist by the name of, Schrödinger and his ever growing need for cheese (because sometimes scientists need cheese – my wife confirmed as much), MouseCraft is essentially a collect all puzzle game in which your primary goal is to get your three little mice to the cheese at the end of each short but well-designed stage.
Progression, in the form of getting at least one of your mice to the cheese isn’t all that demanding, but if you’re a completionist and are keen to save all three mice and collect every piece of crystal, things soon become decidedly challenging.
With no direct control over your mice and no option to upgrade their abilities beyond walking forward ala Lemings, it’s down to your careful placement of tetrominoes (essentially the blocks we all know and love from Tetris), to ensure safe passageway for your three brave/mindless mouseketeers. The game does a good job of easing you into proceedings with relatively basic early levels and the ability to pause time while you choose the right tetromino certainly making life a lot easier, but even with this ability, getting that 100% completion on any stage is rarely a straightforward affair.
By placing the tetrominoes at your disposal onto a grid-like system layered above the games’ side-on, 2D stages (in perspective at least), you can carefully plan the safest route for your three dim-witted mice. As previously stated, getting one back is not overly challenging, but picking up all of the collectibles often takes far greater care, and with traps and environmental dangers increasing exponentially with every stage, clearing everything on a stage soon becomes a decidedly taxing affair.
The basic premise never changes, but thanks to increasingly unstable tetrominoes, planning, and particularly timing, becomes increasingly important. With electrified blocks and ones that crumble away after a certain amount of use, MouseCraft does a good job of keeping this relatively simplistic premise fresh and challenging throughout.
Of course, if you’re looking for something more demanding, you can always take on the games’ solid level editor in which you can create and share your own puzzle designs. You can use every item available in the main game, and with a huge canvas to work on, can actually make stages and puzzles that dwarf those found in the core campaign. Of course, if creating isn’t your thing, you can just enjoy the stages crated by others which invariably adds longevity to the experience.
It’s unlikely to win any awards for innovation, but MouseCraft does a solid job of honouring its inspirations while combining them to create something that never feels overtly derivative. The learning curve is perfectly pitched with progression rarely blocked by obtuse puzzles or unfair difficult spikes. This is a game you can play at your own pace and at your own level. Get to the end or go for 100% completion – the choice is yours.
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