Developer: Remode Studios
Publisher: Blitz 1up
Much like Marmite, sambucca and skydiving, Mole Control is one of those things that you'll be able to decide whether or not you'll enjoy almost instantaneously, precisely because of its single-mindedness. Essentially the result of dragging Windows classic Minesweeper kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Mole Control is a relatively new downloadable puzzle game courtesy of indie developers Remode Studios.
The story goes a little something like this: the residents of cartoonish, cutesy town Molar Creek have lived for years in peaceful co-habitation with the neighbouring colony of explosive tunnelling mammals. There's the occasional raid and the odd mole-hunting bonanza, and a yearly Mole Control Contest to win a trophy the size of a small child, but it's all good and apart from the odd spontaneous combustion from tourist roadkill everything is absolutely fabulous.
However, the night before this year's Annual Mole Control Contest, a mysterious villain lets a whole army of the exploding critters loose in the town, scaring the townsfolk immensely. Thankfully, the local boffin has engineered a hovercraft with a Dyson hoover appendage called the De-Mole-isher (I know) and has entrusted his assistant, that's you, to float around town sucking the moles from their hiding places, hunting down their golden leaders, and taking the town back.
Whilst not exactly Shakespeare, the story provides a pleasant enough backdrop to a game that is basically just a glorified Minesweeper with pretty bits added onto it. That's not really a bad thing, though, as the Windows Classic has been in dire need of an update for a while, and Mole Control actually provides a nice little spin on the whole business. You start with a little tutorial that outlines the point-and-click nature of the game mechanics - move to adjacent squares to uncover numerical exploding mole proximity, repeat until mole position clear - and it's all very easy to get into and hugely accessible. This is helped in no small part but the bright and colourful graphics and upbeat music that is somewhat reminiscent of the old Bullfrog simulator games like Theme Park World. In fact, the whole presentation is so joyously endearing that you'll happily spend an oblivious half hour or so playing away long after your coffee break has ended.
If you make a mistake and run over a patch of land housing a mole, the mole will explode and you'll be forced to repair your hoovercraft (I'm sorry, I had to), and you only have a limited number of repairs per level so it pays to be certain.There are 37 levels in total on the main adventure mode, and the difficulty gets ramped up each time, so by the end you're fending off hundreds of the blighters.
Aside from the story progression, there's a Time Attack Mode for those quick five minute sessions, where you have to clear a certain number of moles against the clock, with each collected mole adding a handful of seconds to your remaining time. It's a nice little mode for an idle few minutes in the day, and it can get moderately frantic as you scramble to hit your target with seconds to spare.
That's pretty much it. You see Mole Control's strength is ultimately also its undoing. It's a charmingly presented little game, and its singular purpose adds immediate accessibility, but the trouble is that once you've seen one level, you've pretty much seen them all. Simple games can work well, incredibly so even, but they need to have something that elevates them from the pack to be anything more than a fleeting distraction. Mole Control is addictive enough the first time through, and it is by no means a bad game at all, with initial impressions that it is both pleasantly familiar and colourfully endearing. But I can't really see myself coming back for more.
The Short Version: Mole Control proves to be a fresh, charming take on the traditional Minesweeper-style puzzle, but the winning presentation can't quite save the game from being anything more than a fleeting distraction. Like one-hit wonders Europe, Mole Control starts well, but it's not long before you realise that there's not much else on offer.