Developer: Jean-Philipe Sarda
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

For those who aren’t aware of the rather interesting backstory to Microminers, please allow me to explain. Markus “Notch” Persson might be famous for developing the indie darling Minecraft, but before the massive block sandbox came to be he had been fiddling with a 2D mining game called Miners4K. The reason this is all relevant is because Microminers is a kind of revision/spiritual successor to the little known Notch classic that has been specifically designed for mobile devices and even given the legendary designer’s blessing. So, does it deserve it? Yes. Yes it does. Unquestionably.

The basics of Microminers are very easy to learn. White miners dig up silver, black miners dig up coal, both can mine gold, and neither can mine the others’ “exclusive” ore. They also can’t cig through rock and are extremely susceptible to death by explosions, gases, and lava. Spread liberally throughout each vertically scrolling level are large mineral deposits and other treasures that are typically surrounded by some form of obstacle or another, and players will have to figure out how best to reach them using only a “dig” and “fill” tool. Each deposit must be mined to a certain degree in order to count as obtained – it earns one to three stars depending on how much is taken – while missing three deposits results in a Game Over.

There are so many elements, layouts, and nuanced techniques to Microminers it’s almost funny. Simply getting through some levels can be a nail-biting experience but earning three stars? Yeah, good luck with that. Not that it isn’t ridiculously fun to try, of course. On top of all the gathering, directing, avoiding, and so on, there are also special collectible items scattered throughout some levels that will be added to a growing museum when found. The more items on display in the museum, the more miners that are added to the initial pool and the more sacrifices that can be made before running out of “man” power. And so the cycle continues.

If there was one criticism I’d have to level at Microminers (and there is), it’s that the pathfinding can sometimes be a bit wonky. They move in set patterns that are determined by topography, and having even a couple of pixels in the wrong place can put a group of them into a loop that could get them killed once the top of the ever-scrolling screen catches up to them.

I can totally see why Notch gave Microminers his blessing now; it’s a fantastic realization and adaptation of his original “sketch.” This is an iOS game worth talking about, and very much worth owning. I’ll be buying my own copy once it’s released, that’s for certain.


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