App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
MouseBot can be best described as a “puzzle racer” game. In it, you control a robotic mouse on wheels through rat maze-like environments. For anyone familiar with developer Vector Unit's previous output, MouseBot seems like a distinct departure from the more traditional racing games they've made, but not exactly for the better. MouseBot looks nice, but has some structural and control issues that make it a pretty disappointing experience overall.
The exact premise for MouseBot is a little hard to parse. You play as a robot mouse that is being put through experimental mazes by cats, but the cats seem to want to kill you rather than see whether or not you succeed. Whatever the cats' true motives are, this translates into a game where you'll be steering a robo-mouse from behind to keep it from running into buzzsaws, mines, lasers and more.
The goal of every level in MouseBot isn't just to survive though. Every course has cheese strewn about it, and you must gather a certain amount of cheese before reaching the exit. Although the game looks like a racing game, there's not a time limit on any level, making the whole experience feel a lot more like a puzzle game, despite looking and feeling a lot like a racer.
Things start pretty simple in MouseBot, with courses that have a few mousetraps, but quickly escalate to increasingly intricate and long courses filled with tons of obstacles. Hitting any particular obstacle in the game results in immediate failure, but you have the option to spend in-game currency to continue your progress from a checkpoint rather than the beginning of the race if you'd like.
MouseBot is pretty generous about this checkpointing currency, but it feels like a bit of a cheap system. Restarting from a checkpoint positions you in the center of the track and not from the position you were in when you crossed the checkpoint marker, resulting in situations where restarting makes the rest of the level significantly easier than it would be if you restarted the race.
If you find yourself restarting courses a bunch, you'll inevitably run out of lives and decide how you want to replenish them. Without paying anything, you can simply wait out a timer for gain lives back, but you can also spend in-game currency, watch an ad, or make a one-time $4.99 purchase to get infinite lives.
I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with a structure like this, but I find it kind of grating in MouseBot because I consistently found myself dying due to issues with the game's controls more than anything else. MouseBot has two options for its virtual button control scheme (small and large), and neither of them felt right to me. As a result, I lost a lot of lives by running headlong into obstacles because I had just missed the steer or jump button I was trying to hit.
The bottom line
MouseBot offers up some light and cute puzzling, but it's a little hard to control. Losing lives and having to wait, pay, or watch an ad to replenish them can feel a little frustrating when you feel like the reason you failed is the game's fault and not yours. Although there are checkpointing systems to mitigate this issue somewhat, it feels like a cheap solution. Because of these issues, MouseBot is hard to recommend.