If you were to throw a pet shop full of mice into a pot along with a couple of Tetris cartridges, a few floppy disks with Lemmings loaded onto them, and an entire fridge filled with cheese, you’d get MouseCraft, Chrunching Koalas’ debut title which has just matured onto PC and PlayStation consoles today. But as interesting as this cheesy mash-up sounds, does it hold itself together, or does it crumble like a good Stilton?
MouseCraft is a puzzling adventure which follows the story of Schrödinger, a crazy cat scientist from the Planet Cohesia who’s working on a very cheese consuming experiment, but there’s one problem. He’s run out of cheese so decides to smash his piggy bank and uses his life savings to get some more. It’s now down to you to help Schrödinger complete his cheesy experiment before things go too mouldy.
The game itself is a crackers mash up of Tetris and Lemmings in which you must place Tetromino blocks in amongst the games various levels in order to get your three mice to the end of the maze where the stinky cheese awaits. There’s just one little problem though, your mice won’t stop moving – this is where the Lemmings influence comes in. Each level has three mice, which you must get to the end in order to complete the level, it requires a lot of quick thinking and puzzle solving before you even touch the games blocks.
At the start of the game, you’re introduced to the first few of the games mechanics, but as you progress more things are revealed to you so you can gradually learn as you play. It’s this type of learning curve which I absolutely adore, you’re not instantly attacked by tons of different controls or features. Throughout the game you’re introduced to new block-types and other game-changing features which not only keep the game fresh, but has you wanting to progress right to the end in order to unlock all of the games features and find out exactly what Schrödinger is trying to achieve with his stinky experiments.
At first, your only goal is to get the three mice to the end, but the further you progress you’re then introduced to another collectable in the form of Anima Shards it’s these crystal-like shards that are keeping Schrödinger’s experiments funded thanks to a mysterious beneficiary that’s willing to pay good money for these Shards. Essentially these shards work as one of the few criteria needed to move onto the next series of levels in the game.
MouseCraft’s controls are fairly simplistic. This review is based on the Vita version, so I can’t comment on how the game plays on the PC or PlayStation, but what I can say is that depending on how you like to play games on your Vita, MouseCraft caters for both. Whether you’re more of a mobile gamer who prefers to use the touch screen, or someone who’s adamant that controllers are better, Crunching Koala’s have catered for you both. That being said however, with the touch screen controls, MouseCraft feels more like a high quality mobile game rather than a console title.
This is the only real negative point I have with MouseCraft. The game feels like a mobile title, no matter which way you look at it, the game works a million times better on the small screen of the Vita than I think it could on PC or the PlayStation. That, paired with the games touch screen controls does often leave the Vita a little redundant which is a shame. But, with that being the only bad point, elsewhere MouseCraft truly shines.
In the game, quick thinking isn’t always needed, but planning ahead is. Thankfully those levels that require you to quickly place a block once your mice have reached a certain point can be achieved much easier thanks to the time freeze option. This mode allows you to quickly pause the level and place blocks without the risk of your mice going too far past the point you needed to place the block.
The games visuals and level designs are gorgeously animated but not too over-the-top and cheesy, which is perfect. Throughout each level Schrödinger is hovering in the background assessing the situation as you drag your blocks to where you think they’d fit, and if something goes wrong, just press the time travel button and you’ll zap back in time and undo your last move, this is represented by a whizz-pop and a flash which fits the games cartoon-like appearance really well.
As you progress through MouseCraft things begin to get much busier, there’s more blocks on the screen, robotic mice to avoid, and even watery animations, but with all this going on, MouseCraft still runs as smooth as butter, even as you’re dragging and placing blocks, blowing other blocks up, and even sending your mice on their way, there’s no lag whatsoever.
The story in MouseCraft does a good job of explaining some of the more.. questionable antics that Schrödinger and his mice are getting up to, even mention of our crazy cat scientist running out of cash is overcome by our anonymous beneficiary. Throughout the game I had this determination to get to the end to see exactly what Schrödinge has up his sleeve and though the story at times can be easily forgotten, you’re subtly reminded on occasion.
To expand the world of MouseCraft even further once you’ve managed to complete the 80-odd levels available to you in the story mode, you can head on over to the level editor and create your own crazy experiments with all of the tools, blocks, and features available in the games main story mode. On the Vita, however, the levels you create can’t be shared (at least right now, anyway) so this does leave the level editor a little redundant if you don’t have anyone to share your marvellous creations with.
Overall, MouseCraft is a fantastic little game that’ll have you wasting hours of your life getting mice to reach the cheese. It’s the perfect sort of game that you can easily pick-up and play whether its for a quit ten minutes on the loo, or a couple of hours on a flight. As I mentioned before, it’s a shame it feels a lot more like a well built mobile title rather than a Vita game, though it does utilise both the touch screen and the games controls depending on your preference, which not a lot of games do that often.
This review is based on the PS Vita version of MouseCraft provided by the publishers.