Indie game developer and publisher EnsenaSoft have recently released Miko Mole on PS4, the studios debut console game is apparently inspired by timeless classics such as Boulder Dash, Worms, Stealth 2 and Unmechanical and sees Miko take players on an underground mission to become a master thief by collecting enough gems on each level to open its exit to progress.
Miko Mole was a unique experience for me; not because it was this stellar masterpiece that captured my intrigue, but because it was my introduction to a world where games released on the PS4 could lack so much. From the gameplay, to the music and aesthetic, the game lacks the usual heart of a game developer and feels like something pulled together to make a quick buck.
Almost as if to foreshadow the creeping disappointment and inane design, Miko Mole ridiculously starts off asking the moral question: “Is it wrong to steal it if the people you’re stealing from are people?”
You play as Miko, a mole who loves finding diamonds, who sets out to mines owned by Evil Corp. in order to steal their diamonds. While it is a somewhat decent justification for the player to embark on the 6 challenging environments with 40 levels per world for an impressive 240 puzzle-adventure levels, I felt the small narrative could’ve been omitted. Especially since each time you boot the game, while it may be skippable, you are met with the cutscene explaining the “story.”
The story is not the highlight of Miko Mole. No, the overwhelmingly bad level design and gameplay is. As you maneuver through labyrinths on your heli-backpack, you will collect diamonds while digging through dirt, dodging unpredictable mole-eating bats and falling, yet also floating, rocks; and upon collection of all diamonds (or the level’s limit), you exit to the next level through a grate and are given a score and one to three-star rating dependent on the amount of diamonds collected and the rate of completion of the level. While the gameplay does sound similistic (and incredibly reminiscent to something of a mobile game), Miko Mole feels like nothing but a slog to play.
Miko controls with some delay, or perhaps he’s just slow – it’s hard to discern from whether it’s one or the other, or maybe just both. His animations and model can oftentimes cause him to get stuck on the tiniest hitches in the environment and make him an easy target for the various perils in the mine. Accompanied by the fact that enemy AI is randomized, erratic rather than set in paths and that upon close contact with said enemies means death, it creates a layer of challenge making your way through the mines, but also a layer of artificial difficulty for something attributed as a ‘puzzle’ game.
Being unable to find a rhythm in a genre so reliant on such, makes it difficult to find the parallels that earn it the genre of ‘puzzle’. In a game with no checkpoints and a time limit for each level, it’s simply unacceptable to make such a mistake. I would often become frustrated being caught in hall as an enemy slowly encroached and I was unable to escape, like a scenario out of Jaws. Not only that, but occasionally throughout your ventures through the mines, you will find some rocks that are suspended in the air or in dirt. Should you approach one and go under it after removing any other obstructions, the rock will fall after you move a certain distance. If you’re lucky, it may even kill an enemy for you. While this may be a fine-and-dandy mechanic, the level design pits in some situations where you have to actively dodge these rocks as you maneuver through terrain, and should they get stuck on a crevice in the environment and they’re obstructing your way out, if you try to dig the rock out from underneath, so long as it’s activated, it will fall on you, explode, and kill you. Many a times have I been close to clearing the goal when a caught rock would quickly end Miko’s life, only strengthening my neverending headache when I played the game. For a game with such a simple vision, I’d never seen it more poorly done.
The music in Miko Mole is another situation. All throughout the game, you will be listening to songs that are weird and awful amalgam of music genres that I can really only describe as ‘the blues’, and even then I’m not too sure of myself. This type of soundtrack does not benefit Miko Mole whatsoever. As you play your way through World 1, it’s best to get used to the song playing because that’s the only one you’ll hear throughout that World. It incessantly loops and no doubt, will get on your nerves. The sound effects in the game are weird collections of musical instrument noises, however they are not so frequent, despite being a necessity for most games.
Describing Miko Mole’s aesthetic is like describing the memories of the games included on newer PCs back in 2006 or so by WildTangent. It’s childish and the 3D modeling and animations are often serviceable, but upon closer inspection of the textures on the rock formations in and surrounding the environment, it’s apparent that the textures are stretched across the planes. This just comes across as thoughtless and lazy, only further reassuring myself that this game was made to try to establish a series that would net the developers a quick buck.
Miko Mole lacks thought, heart, and soul. A mobile game seemingly ported over to the PS4 with awful design through-and-through, I’m happy to delete the game from my harddrive and put my short time with it in the past. Miko Mole is not the pinnacle of game design, no it is not. It is the pinnacle of bad game design. While it may not be completely unplayable, it’ll stand the test of time as one of my worst memories of 2015.
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