Review by Retro
"Save The Lazy Smiley Face from Doom"
I've got too much time on my hands, and I don't know what to do with it all
Some games aren't meant to be played unless you're just bored out of your mind with nothing to do but sit and stare at the detail of the walls around you. Minesweeper seems to be one of those games at first. Upon receiving my very own computer many years ago, it took me over a year to finally decide to try out this explosive little title that's on every computer in the world. More playable games like Solitaire and Wheel of Fortune took up my thousands of minutes of spare time when I was actually bored enough to check out what PC gaming had to offer.
''I don't understand that game! All you do is click squares until you lose!!!''
Does that sound like you? If not, I bet you'll get that reaction if you ask at least two random people what they think of Minesweeper. For months, I was included in the majority that had no idea about how to play the damn thing. It seemed to be more based on luck than bingo and it was about as fun as staring into space with nothing on your mind. After a few weeks blew by, I finally figured out that I could prosper by clicking the Help menu and reading about how to play. And it worked!
Minesweeper's playing field is composed of nothing more than a square-shaped grid made up of several gray squares. Red digits that represent how many mines are left to be untagged, a timer that counts up from zero, and a yellow, bald smiley face all reside at the top of the grid. The controls couldn't be easier; all you do is use your everyday mouse to click square after square. Each click removes one of these squares and determines your destiny of life or death. If you're lucky, the square that you click will turn into a number, or, even better, a wide open space in the playing field will show up, leaving brand new territories open to explore. If your time has come, a mine will be unearthed and your game will be over!
I didn't come here for a bloody math lesson
Fortunately, the tens of hundreds of numbers that you'll see while playing Minesweeper have nothing to do with math. A number tells you exactly how many mines are in the adjacent squares that surround the one you just clicked. For instance, you decide to click a square that's in the middle of the grid. A lucky, or rather unlucky number 7 shows its face. This means that seven of the eight squares that surround that number 7 are mines. Only one of those eight is safe to unearth.
The best way to succeed in Minesweeper is to click around until a nice, wide open space is revealed. When this happens, you're likely to see a few 1's lying around. Let's say you see a space that has a 1 on it, and only one unopened square is touching it. This means that that one and only space is a mine! Since you know for sure that it's a mine, right-click that little devil. A flag will be placed onto it so you won't accidentally left-click it and die a terrible death. When you know without a doubt that a certain square is not a mine, left-click it to disclose its safe territory. It's really not difficult to learn how Minesweeper is played if you'll just be patient and try to understand it. I can't stress that enough.
Save The Lazy Smiley Face from Doom
That should be the title of this game. Sure, you sweep mines, but the game has an underlying humanitarian plot by including a smiley face icon at the top that just sits there making faces at you the whole time. While you're in the process of clicking, the yellow being has a surprised, scared look on his face (:-O). He doesn't know whether his ass is about to be grass or whether he'll be alive and kicking when you let go of your mouse button. If he's still breathing, he'll go back to smiling (:-)), but if you uncover a mine, he'll frown and his eyes will go from being two circular dots to being two X's (X-(). Seeing that nobody planned a funeral for his dead face, he just waits patiently for you to start a new game.
Eh, forget about the smiley face and feel the need for greed instead! Do you play Minesweeper to save a life over and over again? No! You play it to get one of the high scores! When and if you clear a grid in record time, you'll get to type in your name on the beloved Best Times list that only has room for the fastest mine sweepers.
Minesweeper is a cool title for a game. I like how it sounds. But I don't like the sounds of the game. That's because there are no sounds at all. There aren't any graphics to speak of either, really. The grid and spaces aren't even Atari 2600 quality, and the smiley face is...just a smiley face. However, if you happen to get an urge to see the game through the eyes of a dog or a colorblind person, you can always opt to play it in black and white.
The only real complaint I have with the great Minesweeper is that it can sometimes come down to how much luck is on your side. You'll mostly use strategy and wit to rid the screen of mines, but sometimes that will do you no good; this is especially common when playing on the expert level. When you're close to completing your mission, you'll occasionally run into a dead end where only one mine remains, but two or more squares are left that can be holding the dynamite bastard. You look all around in every direction, but none of the numbers or flags give you any clue as to which of the squares has a mine inside. You have no choice but to cross your fingers and click one of the remaining squares. BOOM!
Throw in three different difficulty levels (the higher the difficulty, the bigger the grid is and the more mines there are) and even the option of customizing your own grid (you can toggle the height, width, and number of mines), and you have an even better value for your money, even though Minesweeper comes free with your computer.
Taking a few minutes out of your life to play Minesweeper can be challenging and extremely frustrating, but it's also a lot of fun and very, very addicting. Each time you get a new 'best time', you just know without a doubt that somehow, some way, you can beat that time. That is what makes Minesweeper addicting to no end, and ultimately what makes it worthwhile to play every single day of the year.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/12/01, Updated 07/04/04
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