What’s the most dangerous mole in the world? The melanoma variety, perhaps. Or the man on the inside of MI5 passing our secrets to the East? They even know what brand of toothpaste Gordon Brown uses (look out for the upcoming scandal: Colgate). In actual fact, the most dangerous variety is the common garden mole. At least in the sleepy, charming hamlet of Molar Creek, which has been blighted by – wait for it – explosive ones. Yes, explosive moles.
Quite why they’re explosive isn’t explained. Presumably they’re very gassy beasts. Normally, the moles are well contained by the local population, but a mysterious black-coated stranger has turned up and spread them all over town. Your job is to pursue this nefarious figure while clearing up the mined moles he’s left behind in people’s gardens, the local park, the scrapyard, and so on.
As soon as you begin playing Mole Control, you’ll realise that it’s essentially an updated version of the classic Windows logic game, Minesweeper. The difference is you drive a futuristic buggy around a lawn, rather than clicking on a grid of tiles, but the principle remains very much the same. When you move onto a square of grass, a number is displayed if any moles are next to it (it’s blank if there are none). Using these numbers in conjunction with each other, it’s possible to work out where the moles are, and suck them up with your vacuum pump attachment.
Mole Control is slower paced, easier to play and more casual-friendly than Minesweeper, for several reasons. Firstly, actually moving the buggy around and exploring sections of lawn step-by-step makes it easier to work out where the moles are. Minesweeper is the faster game – when you click on a bank of blank squares, it reveals the lot simultaneously – but scooting around and scouting out every single square, as you must do in Mole Control, somehow makes it easier to visualise and figure out where the moles are.
We’d never been able to get to grips with Minesweeper very well, but Mole Control gets you seeing the patterns of where the traps are laid with more clarity. In fact, we went back to Minesweeper after this review and found ourselves better players thanks to the lessons we’d learned, without a doubt. Mole Control is a less frustrating game for several other reasons, however.
Namely, the repair kits and power-ups it introduces. Repair kits are simply lives: you have two of them, which means if you hit a mole (or dig in a wrong square where there’s no mole to be extracted), your buggy doesn’t blow up in a ‘game over’ style. You just lose a life, and extra repair kits are scattered around the game’s levels. In Minesweeper, of course, hitting a mine means instant death.
Power-ups come in the form of special coloured moles which are sometimes sucked up by your vacuum pump. These can be fired back out into the play area with various effects. A pink (lady) mole will lure out any moles in a nine-square section, allowing you to see where they are. A blue mole will shuffle any other moles hiding in the nine squares it’s fired at, so if you’re stuck fast on one section of the map, re-arranging the exploding creatures will hopefully make them easier to pin-point. Aside from making the game a bit simpler, these power-ups also make it more fun.
And that, in a nutshell, is Mole Control defined. It’s a more fun version of Minesweeper, gets your brain seeing the patterns of the mines – or moles, rather – more effectively, and presents extra gameplay decisions such as when to most effectively use your power-ups.
The game is slower paced than Minesweeper, mind you, and some of the sprawling levels with tens upon tens of moles buried underground can take an hour or so to solve. Inching your buggy around these bigger landscapes can feel rather repetitive after a while, so Mole Control is best suited to short bursts of play, rather than long sessions.
Company: Blitz Games Studios