I’ve never actually seen a cat go at a mouse, playing with it until it dies. But I’m pretty sure if I had it wouldn’t look anything like Mousecraft. Tasked with escorting mice across an obstacle course Mousecraft is a puzzle game which mixes elements of Lemmings with a dash of Tetris, and comes out with its own take on the genre.
The setting places you in a laboratory controlled by a mad-scientist cat called Schrödinger, of course, as he conducts experiments on mice. The game plays out on a 2D grid, with the goal of each level being to get all your mice from their wheel to the cheese. The mice move automatically left to right and have limitations on what environmental features they can overcome. You are given Tetris style blocks to place where you wish within the level, the bricks start off in normal flavour but soon expand to include crumbling ones, explosive ones and bouncy jelly ones amongst others. As well as different blocks you’re also faced with evil robotic rats and other environmental dangers.
All of these variations are drip fed to you throughout the game to ensure a nicely balanced difficulty curve. By the end of the game you’ll be juggling many different variables as you try to keep your mice alive, and get that gold ranking on each level. The challenge on this game comes from trying to perfect each level.
Unlike other puzzle games there is little room for error, the levels are so well worked out that the incorrect placement of one brick can result in failure. This is where the rewind button comes into play. At any time you can rewind your moves, effectively resetting the level back to the start. This allows for a great sense of trial and error, and the speed in which you can undo a move means the constant rework never becomes a chore. Soon you’ll have your old grey matter working hard as you try to figure out what your next move ought to be. There is often only one correct solution to a puzzle, and as with all the best in the genre, this becomes blatantly obvious only once you’ve figured it.
As an overall package there is a fair bit on offer here as the game is cross buy, across both home consoles and the Vita, includes a total of 80 levels and also comes with a comprehensive level editor, although you can’t share these. Presentation is also great with chunky graphics lending a degree of humour to proceedings. The music is also well judged, kicking in to a more perilous riff when you chose to release your mice to see if your solution works.
Playing this across both the Vita and the PS4 I would have to say this fits better with the Vita. It’s ideally suited to gaming on the go, allowing you to solve a puzzle on your lunch break then come home and cross save your progress to your home console. The Vita’s screen shines with the colourful graphics and the ability to use the touch screen to move your pieces adds a nice little touch. The larger screen of my TV somehow made the game feel more simplistic, and the character models looked a little rough round the edges.
A puzzle game is judged on its difficulty curve and Mousecraft has this about right. Things start of really easy and ease you into the mechanics behind the game. By the later stages though you will find yourself staring at a stage trying to work out the solution, with no idea where you should even start.
Overall then this is a decent package, a pleasing little puzzler with a nice sense of fun to it. The single solution level set up means that replayability is limited, however the inclusion of the level editor goes some way to mitigating this fact. As a free offering on the instant Game Collection for July this is a real gem and highlights the diverse range of games on offer.