At first glance Mousecraft might look like your run-of-the-mill mobile angrily flapping avian style game. There are short levels, presented via a numbered map, each with an additional objective to just completing the level (in this case objects called ‘Anima Shards’). However, don’t be mistaken. The game itself is a very well designed little puzzler that, while a nice distraction on the PlayStation 3 and PS4, is absolutely perfect for the Vita.

The basic premise is the kind of thing you’d get if you mashed Chu Chu Rocket together with Lemmings – guiding three mice from their wheel to a cheesy prize while avoiding deadly hazards. These hazards come in six flavours: gravity, water, acid, evil robotic rats – they have a proper name but this is what happens when you don’t take detailed enough notes -, electric blocks, and explosions – which explode.

The player has to drop Tetronimos – the official name for those classic Tetris blocks – and build a path to navigate these levels; some blocks break falls, some blocks can be moved after they’re placed and all of these can be blown the hell up. These factors come together to create a really tight puzzle game. There’s enough variety here to keep things challenging but it’s still simple enough to just pick up and work out as you go.

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One of them explosions I mentioned – Vita Style

What really sets it apart is the design of said puzzles. While playing some of the early – and being shown a selection of the later –  levels, there were some fabulously devious puzzles on offer, demanding complex interactions between timed explosions, falling Tetronimos and the pathing of the mice themselves. I particularly liked the tactic of using a barrier to widen the gap between the mice and precisely timing it (a task made easier by the ability to pause the movement of levels) to avoid losing errant mice in detonations. There were quite a few puzzles that elicited an appreciative “Oooh, that’s how you do it!” from me, which is always a good sign for a puzzle game.

The visuals and music are also really smooth: the game looks great and the cartoony backgrounds are fully dynamic and bursting with character. The backgrounds and level skins change every twenty levels to avoid becoming dull (so with eighty levels you get four backgrounds), although it’s a little disappointing that these chunks provide a purely visual difference and have no influence on any of the mechanics or themes present in the levels themselves. The music reminded me a lot of the Worms franchise, which is absolutely ideal for this kind of game. It’s chirpy and tuneful without being distracting.

Another small issue is touch controls, although this is more a criticism of the method in general than for this game specifically. They’re there and they work, but you can’t see a damn thing when your hand’s in front of the screen, which makes placing blocks a little frustrating – it’s also one of the reasons why the developers are slightly reticent to port the game over to mobile platforms, but they’re not ruling it out.

So there you go. Mousecraft is a charming, slick and challenging puzzler. An excellent mix of deep and casual play that allows you to tax your brain while on a commute – the video game equivalent of a sudoku or crossword. Based on what I’ve seen it’s a must-have for anyone with a Vita.

Mousecraft is releasing on PS3, PS4, PSVita and PC on July 8th (US) and 9th (EU)

About The Author

Contributor

Ben is pretty damned nerdy. If he isn't playing video games, then he's probably rolling some dice to hit goblins and thugs or designing, running and crewing a host of LARP systems. He lives in Brighton, because it's nice there. You can follow him on twitter @benrlmeredith

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