MouseCraft – the self proclaimed cheesiest game ever – developed by Crunching Koalas released today on Steam as well as, with the aid of Curve Studios, the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita with full cross-play and cross-buy across all Sony systems. Myself and fellow Codec Moments contributor Graham were fortunate enough to meet a few of the folks from both Curve and Koala a few months back at a press event for an early demo of the console version, but now it’s finally in our hands, does it break the mold… or is it just mouldy cheese?
The story is simple. You play as Schrodinger, a crazy scientist from the planet Cohesia who also happens to be a cat. Did you see that one coming? Of course you did. While toiling away on his many mouse related experiments, Schrodinger realises he’s in incredibly low supply of cheese. Pooling all of his savings, he buys more hoping that he will strike lucky soon. As luck would have it, he does. While working through the early stages of the game he, or should I say you, come across some aquamarine stones called Anima Crystals. Anima Crystals have a high value on the planet Cohesia and just like that we have our motivation. Schrodinger continues his experiments using the sales – or from a player standpoint, acquisition – of the Anima Crystals to progress his research to subsequent stages. Beyond this there is very little narrative: Schrodinger gets money; Schrodinger buys cheese; Schrodinger does experiments.
The gameplay is a cross between Lemmings and Tetris, but unlike either enough to be imitation. The aim of each puzzle is, initially, to assure at least one of the three mice make it to the cheese. This, more often than not, involves the placement of blocks to provide them with a linear path to it. As previously mentioned, the Anima Crystals are brought into the mix early on as a way of gating the later puzzles, incentivizing you to not only accomplish the primary task, but steer the mice toward them too. You’re not required to claim every single one, some can be avoided, but for the completionists out there, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
As the game progresses variables are thrown into the mix at an appropriate rate. For instance, some blocks will decay as mice travel across them, some levels will have you start with or have bomb pick-ups strewn about them that allow you to destroy blocks you have placed, or which were already on the maze to begin with. Some blocks are made of jelly to soften the fall should a mouse need to drop more than three grids (their limit for survival), and there are even hostile mechanical rats from Schrodinger’s earlier experiments known as Ratoids. They act in exactly the way the mice do with one key difference, they can damage mice, but the same will never happen in reverse. The objective being to destroy them with falling blocks, navigate your mice around them or drown them if you’re feeling vindictive and the situation provides the opportunity.
It’s hard to really critique a puzzle game if it does what it’s supposed to do right, and MouseCraft most certainly does. You’re not overloaded from the get-go, so when new items are brought into the fold they’re explained sufficiently and spaced out, giving time for the player to come to terms with what they have most recently received. There’s an active pause button that will allow players to stop the clock and take stock of the situation as well as a back peddle button when they realise a mistake has been made or a situation cannot be rectified. There is no limit to how many times you can do either of these things and at the start of each stage the mice are dormant. The puzzle doesn’t begin until you say it does, giving you plenty of time to assess the situation ahead of you. MouseCraft is friendly to those who have never played a puzzle game, but doesn’t aim to hold their hand forever. This puts newcomers on an even playing field with the puzzle pros while still giving them the challenge they so desire. There’s also a level editor for added replay value. The art style is appropriately cartoony, and the amount of effort gone into the overall design is all the more impressive considering what has been known to come from the Unity engine.
Beyond that there’s very little I can say about it. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t inspire me to recommend it to anyone other than those very excited about puzzle games. For what it’s worth it’s a well put together game and I wouldn’t recommend ‘against’ getting it, I’d simply say that if you feel so inclined you’re getting what you pay for and it’s your decision to make… which it always is anyway.
A review code of MouseCraft on PlayStation 4 was provided by the Curve Studios PR team.
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