Review by HYD

"Click and boom."

Whenever I'm bored or just need to kill some time before waiting for something to happen, I'd always be spending my time with Minesweeper. This game needs no introduction. Being included in the Microsoft Windows package for as long as I can remember, it is no stranger to anyone who has ever used the computer before. Despite of that, the amount of people who really understand the concept and meaning behind this game is surprisingly low. Then again, it's not that much of a surprise considering that you're offered close to no assistance at all. You might resort to the Help files, which explains the basics of the numbers and how the game works, but without a doubt you will still find yourself tripping over mines as if it's second nature to you.

Click on the program and the game immediately loads with a boring grey grid and a yellow smiley sitting sadistically in the middle of the interface. With your mouse and also your fingers conveniently placed over the F2 (New Game), you click the boxes. No matter how good you are, it will come a time where you immediately set a mine off on yourself during your first click, which will lead to instant frustration and it is a major turn-off for casual Minesweeper players.

The game is simple on the surface, but Minesweeper players who have played long enough will realise that there is always a time where you have to guess. And even if you're blessed with luck, it is still not an easy task to fully grasp the concept behind Minesweeper. Click a safe grey box and out appears a number 2 that indicates that there are 2 mines surrounding the box that you have just clicked. The game is deceptively simple, but what lies beneath the hidden boxes is a mystery only you can unfold with the techniques that you have to progressively improve game after game. It is a tough and never-ending process, but people still relentlessly push forward, because Minesweeper is surprisingly addictive.

There are many patterns and skills to observe in this game that most casual players do not realise. For example, a 232 combination isolated next to a wall will always result in 3 mines lying side by side. Such patterns must be quickly intercepted and derived, so as to be able to flag the mines in the shortest time possible and move on. For players who are always keen on puzzle games, this will be one puzzle game with permutations and combinations that would probably prove to be a worthy challenge.

In Minesweeper, there exists 4 modes (Beginner, Intermediate, Expert, Custom) and it is widely considered as a milestone for casual players to advance from one phase to another. The difficulty level from one phase to the next is very prominently exhibited as one plays the game. In the Beginner phase, it is possible to complete the board thanks to an elementary and simple layout of the mines, along with a little luck. However as one moves on to the Intermediate phase, a great difference in the difficulty can be clearly experienced. From here onwards, a 16X6 board riddled with 40 mines lay within, and no amount of luck or predictable mines layout will save you from completing this board without tripping one of those little buggers off.

As mentioned earlier, Minesweeper is basically completed by clicking all the boxes that does not have mines while carefully evaluating those dangerous ones with the numbers that you have been presented with. Minesweeper works in such a way that it is possible and highly recommended that you flag a box (right-click) that suspiciously contains a mine, and then click both your mouse buttons to uncover all the boxes in that area assuming that the box you have flagged contains a mine. It is hard to explain in words, but this technique is absolutely vital for a record-breaking act. The ability to instantly flag suspicious mines by just observing the boxes, mass-open them with the double-mouse click technique, then repeat the process till the entire board is cleared is evidence of a truly skilled Minesweeper player.

While it's included as a default package under Games in almost all the Microsoft Windows packages that have existed so far, it is no surprise that the game has close to zero technical requirement. A simple gray grid, along with maybe at most 5-6 colours of red, black, green and the likes (even with the option to play in black-and-white), and simple sound files that you can even choose to disable, are all the things that Minesweeper is capable of producing. While neither graphically intensive nor boasting satisfying audio, it achieves its purposes well - that is to provide a simplistic, small, but yet dynamic game.

Minesweeper lies hidden in your Program Files, waiting for the day that you open it and take it on. Why not? A game that is simple to play, but difficult to master should prove to be one of the more worthy adversaries that is worth taking on. If you regard yourself as a gamer, might as start from the basics, and nothing packs the package of both skill and classics other than Minesweeper. Remember, it's always there.

Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/13/06

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