Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: MouseCraft has blocks, cheese, and a weird cat
Sometimes it's just fun to sit back and enjoy a fun puzzler starring some hungry (and apparently blind) mice and a joyously ridiculous cat scientist. That's exactly the case as far as MouseCraft is concerned. Developed by Crunching Koalas, an independent studio based in Warsaw, Poland that's also currently working on the word-based dungeon crawling RPG WordTrap Dungeon, this project features fun Tetris-meets-Lemmings gameplay that's equal parts entertaining and challenging.
After spending some time with the Alpha build of the game, I found myself pleasantly engaged in a jovial puzzle experience. Three mice walk along a 2D plane automatically, with the point of each stage being to lead at least one of them to a tasty slice of cheese. The mice can hop onto blocks, but they need your help scaling higher ledges. By placing shapely collections of blocks taken straight from Tetris, or Tetromino pieces, you can help get the mice to their destination.
In addition to getting to that mouthwatering, odor-heavy cheese, there are collectible shards for you to snag. Currently, these shards don't have any real functionality outside of being hard-to-get trinkets that really push you to use your head to snag them. Perhaps at a later date we'll see these shards used as a currency of sorts, but right now they're essentially fiendishly placed items for completionists to foam at the mouth over.
Surprisingly, there's nothing overly complex about this title. MouseCraft doesn't unload new mechanics on you in rapid succession. Instead, the game is fairly straightforward right from the get-go and sprinkles new types of blocks and elements into later levels. One type of Tetromino, for example, is rigged with dynamite. These are tricky because the first mouse to reach these pieces sets off a timer and then turns around, avoiding any danger. Of course, you need to separate the two mice following close behind by placing a block at just the right moment, forcing them to turn around before they can reach the ticking dynamite Tetromino. There's also a squishy Tetromino that allows your mice to survive high falls, and a crumbling Tetromino that falls apart after the mice take a few steps on it.
The build I played featured Puzzle mode, where you can learn the basic ins and outs, as well as get a handle on the different types of blocks while being fed small amounts of Tetromino pieces. Despite consisting of 20 levels, Crunching Koalas has expressed interest in expanding this mode to a whopping 100 levels come launch. There's also a more fast-paced Arcade mode, which is much more lenient on the amounts of blocks you get. This mode featured 10 stages in the Alpha build, though more are in the works.
The last main mode in MouseCraft is the Level Editor. This component provides you with numerous tools to build your very own stages. The levels that are already included are a lot of fun, and the promise of more to come is definitely exciting. Knowing that players will be able to build their very own puzzles, however, certainly adds to the appeal and longevity of MouseCraft.
I would be completely disappointed with myself if I failed to mention the shining star of the game: the mad cat scientist. Sure, the mice are the ones desperately sniffing out that delicious cheese, but it's that cat, who hangs out in the background sporting rad goggles on his head, that really takes the spotlight. Seeing the goofy, big-eyed feline going even crazier as you lead the mice toward the cheese isn't just funny to watch; it's damn near brilliant. Seriously, just look at those expressions in the screenshots provided here.
You can currently sign up for Crunchy Koalas' Beta Program, which gives you access to early builds of the studio's games. Joining is free, so it's definitely a great way to check out MouseCraft before launch and even have a say on the content that goes into the final build. Additionally, you can purchase your copy and jump right in for a minimum of $1, though you can certainly pay more (and you should). The full game is due out later this year, and if you're a fan of puzzlers, this weirdly satisfying combination of block-stacking, auto-platforming cheese-snatching, and cat weirdness may provide you with some solid hours of entertaining gameplay.
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