Taking two loved classics and splicing them together is no mean feat, but the cheese obsessed minds at Crunching Koalas have done just that with their debut title MouseCraft. Taking strong whiffs from both Tetris and Lemmings, this title certainly has a solid premise – but does it do enough to differentiate itself from its lofty influences, or stink like an old block of Camembert?
The game takes place on planet Cohesia, which is home to an eccentric scientist cat named Schrödinger and his insane experiments that utilise the slave labour of mice on a mystery machine – unsurprisingly fuelled by countless blocks of dairy delight. Our feline Doc Brown look-a-like has had a few rough experiments that have ended in failure, broken his bank, and used up all of his cheese reserves, so, in an effort to complete his work, the pussy protagonist busts open his piggy bank, collects his few remaining coins, and purchases one last round of cheddar to complete his experiments with.
These tests involve getting a trio of unsuspecting rodents from one side of an obstacle course to a block of lactose treat on the other. This is achieved with the help of a collection of Tetrimino blocks, which need to be expertly placed in order to carve out a safe pathway for the mice. This is because along the way they’ll be facing a variety of trials and tribulations in order to reach their crumbly goal. Examples of these obstacles are the Ratoids, the robotic results of some of Schrödinger’s unsuccessful experiments that patrol many of the levels. When combined with fire, deep water, high drops, and even explosions, it’s easy to see why you’re needed to aid these little chaps on their journey.
If dodging death wasn’t enough, the levels are peppered with collectibles that aid our trio on their mission such as the Brick Bombs. Much as their name might suggest, these destroy placed blocks, clearing and uncovering alternate routes. With a tap of triangle you’ll enter Demolition Mode, where you’re able to highlight which brick you want to eradicate. The bombs are also often used to gain access to Anima Shards, which are clusters of blue crystals that our on-looking scientist can sell to finance his experiments.
You’ll be collecting a hefty amount of these azure extras over the course of the campaign too, as there are 80 brain twisting levels for you to navigate through, spanning four separate stages. Each of these has its own unique design, depicting the change in laboratories and helping to keep the visual experience fresh for the duration of its running time. Still, irrespective of the scenery, there are countless ways to solve the puzzles on each of the levels, and while you will come unstuck at times, the title’s never going to coax you into crushing your DualShock 4 controller. That said, an optional hints button would have been appreciated at times.
It’s hard to stay mad at such a vibrant experience, though, and the game really comes to life on the PS4, with a colour palette that matches the eccentricity of its steampunk professor. The console version handily maps the Active Pause feature – which freezes the level, allowing unpressured block placement – onto the touch pad, but the control scheme appears to ignore the d-pad entirely. While this isn’t unheard of, it’s a bit of an odd decision; true Tetris aficionados will definitely require some extra adjustment time, but that doesn’t mean that the analogue sticks aren’t up to the brick arrangement task at all.
And the good news is that the game feels equally at home on Sony’s portable platform as well. You’ll be able to use the cloud sync feature to share your progression with the heavens and pick up from where you left off on any other device under the same user, taking the experience with you at the click of a button or two. Condensed down on the Vita, the game still functions flawlessly, taking full advantage of the five-inch touchscreen to ensure that things remain clear and enjoyable when you’re on your travels.
Trophy hunters won’t be best pleased, however, as this dairy-based escapade only hoards a handful of bronze accolades, topped off with a ludicrously difficult gold one that requires a perfect pass on all 80 levels. While Angry Birds addicts will revel in getting all three rodents to the steaming cheddar, it’ll certainly take some serious perfectionism – and a lot of dead mice – to max this one in a hurry.
Still, even when you do complete all that’s on offer, a Level Editor can be found from the main menu, which opens up a whole new realm of do-it-yourself opportunities. Here you’ll be able to become Schrödinger himself, as you make devilishly tricky obstacle courses of your own. Unfortunately, these are currently only available for your personal enjoyment, however the ability to share created stages online has been mooted for a future update.
MouseCraft is an excellent addition to the puzzle genre, which successfully draws upon the strengths of several classics, while differentiating itself at the same time. A unique take on the ‘rat in a maze’ concept, this is entertaining on all three of Sony’s systems, and while it’s not exactly a visual showpiece, it’s charming enough to make you smile like when you’re saying the word ‘cheese’. In short, this is a fun little timewaster that you’re likely to enjoy more than you anticipate – even if you’re lactose intolerant.