Help cat scientist Schrödinger do experiments – he has run out of cheese during his cheese consuming experiments (don’t ask).
The goal of MouseCraft is to get your mice to the cheese. Sounds simple. The furry critters behave very much like lemmings that will go either left or right until they meet a blockage, the cheese, an enemy or certain death.
It is set on a 2.5D playing field in the laboratory with Schrödinger in the background, behind glass, observing the experiments.
To achieve your goal of getting the mice to their favourite treat you use bricks called tetrominos. Each level you are given a set amount of tetromino blocks to pave the way, these are basically Tetris blocks and function the same way as them. You can rotate them to allow slotting of the bricks into the environment or stack them to give the mice a staircase to the correct path.
You can use undo to rewind any mistakes made at any point without punishment. This becomes very handy later on when the challenge increases and you place the wrong brick or accidentally lead your mice directly into danger. There is also a fast forward mechanic which speeds up the movement of the mice, great for when you have placed the perfect set of bricks for them to get to the goal.
Caution is required when dropping bricks though because if those mice are set loose it is very easy to squash them with a mis-timed block drop. Your mice can also only fall down from a maximum height of three blocks, any higher and it’s… well, it ain’t pretty that’s for sure.
A few levels in and we are introduced to anima shards that look like crystals. The crystals are dotted around the levels in hard to reach places: collect the anima shards to allow the experiment to continue. Mice can collect the shards by using the blocks to guide them and this makes navigating levels even trickier when trying to collect them all for that perfect rank at the end of the level.
Some stages have bricks already placed and can lead to some tricky puzzles as failure or success hinges on making each bricks placement absolutely on point. You can let the mice loose before you place any blocks which is essential in completing some of the levels, as placing them before would block the path.
Keeping things interesting are the new mechanics and features that are gradually introduced, providing new ways of getting your mice to the goal. These are never dumped on you without purpose and are gradually introduced so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Freezing time allows you to place blocks calmly without worrying about squishing mice already freed into the level. You get the ability to do this along with undo right from the start.
Brick bombs destroy bricks and won’t damage your mice, so panic not. Pressing the Y button will let you then use the D-Pad to select a pre-placed brick. Pressing the A button detonates allowing you to clear a path when presented with a level that has no bricks to place. It’s Level 11 that has the first proper challenge, with tricky placement of pre-dropped bricks that required brick bombs to clear the path to the crystals.
Ratoids get introduced too and these are Schrodinger’s failed attempt at making mechanical mice – you must keep the mice away from the pesky robotic creations. They behave the same way as your mice, can only climb a block high, stop with freeze time, move faster with speed up and will follow any pathways created. Dropping tetromino bricks on top of them as they whir around their patrol routes will put an end to the metallic menace.
Various brick types are also unlocked as you progress. Crumbling bricks, exploding bricks, electric bricks and the best one – jelly bricks. These gelatinous bricks stop mice dying from falls above three bricks in height and enable the puzzles to become that little bit trickier than before.
Replay-ability will be dependent on how often you get a perfect score in the levels (all mice saved, all crystals collected) which isn’t always so easy to achieve. There are four areas in which you must make your way through to reach the end. Each area has a requirement of shards to unlock meaning hopping back to earlier levels to perfect them may be required.
Achievements are given out at certain milestones such as unlocking a new feature like the brick bomb or exterminating ten ratoids with electric bricks. There are a few trickier ones that will add value by extending playtime trying to perform the feats required.
The music in MouseCraft never gets annoying; it is delightfully plinky, haunting and fits the game’s tone really well. You will get Christmas Movie or Tim Burton vibes from the soundtrack for sure. Yet in terms of the rewards menu, it would have been nice to have had some more bonuses to unlock, mostly as it is pretty thin on content. You get videos unlocked as the story progresses, can view achievements or see how to unlock those unearned and check out your stats so far such as playtime, perfect levels and number of times undo was used.
All in and MouseCraft is one superb game worthy of your attention. A fun and tricky game to be enjoyed by both young and old gamers alike.
MouseCraft is available to download on Xbox from the Xbox Store