Our hero returns home expecting to be greeted by his loving wife and children, but things are strangely quiet. Where are they? He asks. He senses something is wrong and immediately starts a search. As he does he comes across a note, written by his nemesis. It’s says his family has been kidnapped and taunts him to rescue them if he can. This sounds like the plot to a good action movie, but there’s something you should know about our hero, he’s a mole, Muddy Mole.
The tone is no where near as serious for Mole Mania as I made it sound. It’s a block pushing, or in this case ball pushing, puzzler from Nintendo and Producer Shigeru Miyamoto (the mind behind Nintendo’s perennial plumber Mario). You might worry that a Miyamoto game on the old Game Boy might not live up to your expectations, but fear not, Mole Mania is every bit a Nintendo classic.
The story is as I described it (though without the sinister music that might have been playing in your head as you read it). Muddy Mole’s wife and seven kids have been kidnapped by farmer and villain Jinbe. It’s up to Muddy, with some help from elderly mole Grandpa, to rescue them. It’s a simple premise that plays out in short cut-scenes every time you finish a level. As is the way with Nintendo, they manage to fill these scenes with personality for the characters, even with so little time to do it. The scenes do a great job of motivating you to solve just a few more puzzles.
Speaking of puzzles, Mole Mania has a lot of them, in fact that’s the whole game. Each stage is made up of a selection of rooms. Each room is one screen, and in each you need to bring a ball to the exit. Each room is its own puzzle, with enemies and obstructions that will make guiding the ball to the exit a challenge of observation and planning. Muddy can pull, push and roll the ball, as well as burrow underground to find the right position and overcome the challenges ahead of him.
These are simple mechanics, but just like the game’s story Nintendo have taken something simple and filled it to bursting, with numerous different considerations necessary to solve the more complex rooms. I can’t underplay the difficulty of this game. Everything starts out very simple, but you’ll find yourself scratching your head before long as you run all the possible outcomes of that next roll of the ball, hoping you aren’t painting yourself into a corner.
It’s not a criticism of Mole Mania, after all, without the challenging puzzles there wouldn’t be much of a game to speak of. Just don’t be fooled by the soft, friendly art and charming character. There are also boss battles at the end of every stage. These battles are fun distractions that also offer another chance to exercise you problem solving skills.
The music is good but not great, it will carry you along and keeps with the mood of game, there’s just not much beyond that.
You’ll find items to collect in each level as well as cabbages that you can roll into holes for extra points and life. All of this will add to your points evaluation at the end of every stage. So for completions there’s a way of tracking you progress toward a complete save file. There’s a versus mode but I was unable to give it a go before writing this review.
It took me a little over 10 hours to complete Mole Mania and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even when I was wrestling with some of the more difficult puzzles. I spent roughly £10 for a loose copy, and since playing it I can say I could have paid twice as much and still been happy with. Mole Mania Is a fun game and a must own for anyone looking to add to their Game Boy collection.
I give Mole Mania a 9 out of 10.
For Stage – Select, this has been Ed, signing off.
On a side note, if you’re having trouble picking up a physical copy for the Game Boy, you might want to consider purchasing a digital copy of the game from the 3DS.