Sunday, 11 March 2018

Minesweeper (PC Engine)

Traditionally, the main strength of Minesweeper has been the fact that it's insantly accessible on your computer's desktop at a second's notice. Logically, therefore, a version of the game that requires a console, a TV and a physical copy of the game might seem superfluous to the point of absurdity. And it is! But still, the PC Engine version of Minesweeper does have something in its favour, which is, like what the arcade game Logic Pro did for nonograms (that is, making an actual videogame out of them), as does this with the concept of Minesweeper.

There's four modes to choose from once you start the game, though we can disregard two of them right off the bat: one's just regular old Minesweeper, and the other lets you choose the size of the grid and the number of mines. The meat of the game is in the other two modes: The Voyage and Cook's Quest. The Voyage is the least interesting of the two, being set in the high seas of the sixteenth century, it's just a long series of pre-set Minesweeper grids for you to gradually progress through in order. What really kills the draw of this mode is that despite being on the PC Engine CD, a system that has space for game saves built into itself, Minesweeper expects you to write passwords down like some kind of stone-age oaf, which wouldn't be so bad in a normal game, but remember: this is just another layer of obfuscation put on top of what is already a comedically inconvenient way to play Minesweeper.

The other mode, Cook's Quest suffers from the same problems of pre-set rids and lack of saves, but I'm willing to give it much more leeway simply because it's generally a much more interesting concept and a lot more fun to play. In this mode, each grid is part of a large underground cave complex, and there are doors dotted around the edges. You aren't expected to clear every mine on every grid, just carve out a safe path to the doors and to the various treasures and items strewn about the place too. This is actually a pretty addictive mode, and not only is it a lot more fun and interesting than regular Minesweeper, but it actually makes sense to be using a D-pad rather than a mouse in this mode, since you can't go more than a space away from the safe spaces you've already revealed.

Though it's obvious that the grids are pre-set to make this a fairly-designed game, it is a buzz killer to be digging around for half an hour, only to misclick and go all the way back to the start to solve the exact same puzzles again to get back to where you were. Maybe it could have had both pre-set and randomised modes, like Toejam and Earl on the Mega Drive? What would be really cool is if you were digging for artifacts, and each one had an in-game encyclopedia entry, like in La Mulana or something. But I'm just fantasy game designing now, aren't I?

Anyway, Minesweeper is a ridiculous game that shouldn't really exist. But it does, and you can get a copy dirt cheap. I recommend you do so, just so you can play Cook's Quest and fantasise about how much better it would have been with just a few changes. Aah.

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