Review by Ohio State

"Four Seconds On Beginner. Beat That!"

A single drop of sweat trickles down the side of your face. You don’t even notice. However, the friendly bystander may be wondering just why you are appearing to overheat. You are in a temperature that suits you perfectly as it is “room temperature.” You haven’t just finished your daily routine of exercising. You weren’t even outside just moments ago to get a breath of fresh air under the hot sun. Clearly, you have no reason to be overheating and having your body kick in to compensate. Then why? Why are you beginning to sweat? Because, friend, you are nervous. You fear for the life of another. You currently have that life at the tip of your very own finger. You determine if he lives. You determine if he dies. You determine his fate. You hope with all the force you can muster that you do not make a mistake.

“Who would place such a monumental risk in the hands of another?” the bystander wonders. The answer is simply: someone full of trust. Someone who has complete confidence in you and your abilities. Someone who wouldn’t doubt you for a moment. “Who is this someone?” the bystander continues to ponder. You know the answer. You know who he is. Why, he is none other than the friend of friends…

Smiley Face.

Everyone who has Windows has heard of Minesweeper. Heck, anybody who doesn’t have Windows has heard of Minesweeper. Yes, this game is free and you can’t go wrong with that. All you have to do is purchase an operating system that extends into the hundreds and you get yourself this little gem to go along with it. Minesweeper is a test of skill, working under pressure, and frantic button clicking action to make sure you uncover all of the mines in the fastest time possible. Are you up to the challenge!?!

You are offered three sets of difficulty to choose from: beginner, intermediate, or expert. Each determines how large the set of squares to uncover is and how many mines are in that set. If you examine the beginner difficulty, you will see there are rows of eight squares going horizontal and vertical. This provides a perfect square of sixty-four single units. The mine meter in the upper left corner of the game lets you know there are ten mines you have to uncover in this puzzle. The object in this game is to uncover all the squares without uncovering any of the mines.

How do you know where the mines are? Well, for each square you uncover it will reveal a number or a large area of numbers. The number you uncover indicates how many mines it is touching. For example, let’s say you uncover the number one. This indicates that out of the other eight squares surrounding it, one of them is a mine. It is with this exact situation that you run into the game’s first problem. You have eight squares to choose from and the only hint you have is that one of them is a mine. Can you determine which IS the mine? No, that’s impossible. Therefore, you ultimately have to blindly click a random square in hopes that it is not the mine. I personally just click another completely different section in hopes of uncovering a more able area.

Granted, this isn’t a problem when you are on the beginning difficulty level. You can beat the game in a matter of seconds without really concentrating or giving much attention. However, on intermediate and especially expert, this becomes a trip down frustration lane. After you have worked so hard to determine where 80 or so of the other mines are in expert, you are presented with a similar situation where the only thing you have to go on is luck. I have failed in this choice of fate many, many times and it does nothing but burn me and build anger. After working so hard to get the game nearly completed only to lose on account of some situation you have no choice but to guess at is very, very irritating. Not to mention, you can uncover multiple squares at a time in different places all with the same effect of an outright guess.

Despite this flaw, you trudge on, though, eager to play a different game every time and that’s exactly what this offers. Minesweeper rearranges the squares and mines every time resulting in almost infinite replay value for every level of difficulty. You’ll never play the same game twice and that is a benefit. However, even with the constant switching of the mines and numbers, it still manages to get monotonous at times. I never exactly played this game for hours on end and neither will you. This is more of a game to play through for a quick break in your work or something to keep you occupied for a few minutes until your favorite TV show comes on.

If you ever happen to gain the impressive position of having mastered all three difficulties or just want a change of pace, you have the option of playing a custom game. You determine the size of the set of squares and how many mines that set contains. This does provide much needed variety and adds a lot of fun to the game. After having played the game through some of the normal difficulties and losing many times, I sometimes just like to set up a game of a tremendous size with next to no mines, so all I have to do is uncover about two squares. Sure, it’s cheap, but it is fun just to see some victory after a while. On the other hand, if I happen to have a winning streak going, I like to just make a minuscule size game board with a ton of mines knowing that I have absolutely know hope of winning. The strange feeling of knowing I can’t win is exciting and makes me appreciate the custom option that much more.

Just the thrill of getting the high score is extremely lovable. It’s such a minor thing to get the high score for this game, yet it provides so much pleasure. To see that little box pop up asking you to type in your name is a feeling of ecstasy and it’s even better when you get to see your name in the official box with the records for each difficulty. If you ever happen to be in a relationship that you wish to break off, such as your girlfriend, I would recommend resetting her Minesweeper high scores as the final assault as it results in such a devastating feeling of defeat to hop on your computer and see your golden score reduced back to the original 999 seconds by Anonymous. Of course, make sure you don’t want to make up or anything before you do this, because the result of seeing your face after such a crime could result in your death.

Alas, this is no ordinary face. This is a face filled with emotion and color. Inside of a gray box, Smiley Face has a thin dark line as the boundary between his face and the gray square he occupies, a yellow complexion, with two black dots and a curvy line for a smile. But don’t think for a minute that this is all you get from this individual. When you are click a square while debating whether to uncover it, his eyes grow wide in terror and his mouth forms a perfect “O” while he wonders if this is the end. If it isn’t, he goes back to his jolly old self, but if it is, you meet Mr. “X” eyes indicating the demise of our comrade along with an ever-depressing frown. Smiley Face is accompanied with two red three-digit countdown (or up in the case of time) clocks on both sides with the panel of squares beneath him. The numbers also feature a unique color for themselves with the number one as blue and two as green.

Sure the picture isn’t stunning, but it gets the job done. It’s simple graphics for a simple game. Smiley Face’s emotions really are amusing for a small time and the colors are attractive, though few. Even if you don’t appreciate the colors, you can revert to an olden black and white version to add a bit of variety to the game. Of course, technology has advanced into color for a reason, so this will only provide minor excitement for a while until you just can’t wait to see good ol’ Smiley in all his yellow glory.

“But I can’t hear anything.” Don’t expect any explosions to accompany your death or a chanting crowd to be screaming “Ohio! Ohio! Ohio!” upon your victory. Not a sound is to be heard in this game and that really didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the lack of silence in the game and I think it helped me to concentrate on getting a high score a bit more. No music, no sounds, nothing but you and the game.

You’ll find no fancy button combinations or complicated keyboard commands here. All you need is your finger and a mouse to get you into the action. Simply click the left button to uncover a mine or click the right button. So simple even that buffoon from elementary school who still hasn’t figured out how to use the eraser on his pencil can do it.

Be patient. The challenge in this game is just that, challenging. Beginner difficulty won’t really bother anyone except newcomers to the game, but the later difficulties will really have you screaming in frustration. Losing again and again on expert becomes almost depressing especially when you slipped on the mouse and accidentally uncover a square you didn’t mean to which turns out to be a mine. I’ve left the game for days at a time just to recuperate from my latest string of failures without a single win. The problem is you fight to get the fastest time, but at the same time you fight to be careful and therefore, slow. These conflicting issues simply result in panic where you begin to click uncontrollably as you see your best time slipping away into nonexistence that results in even more frustration. This is not for the people with weak wills or spirits, but you ultimately keep coming back for more just to prove to, if not anyone else, the game that you can beat it and beat it well.

This became my best friend back when I had a 56K modem. As soon as I went to a web site or tried to load some program, I popped up old Minesweeper. Trying to beat the game as many times as possible before the page or program loaded became a fun little challenge for me while trying to beat my best time so far. I was working that mouse button so fast that my finger became a blur as I focused in on my goal or attaining the new record. It was fun and I loved almost every minute of it.

Although, I have now become a cable modem user and the need for something to do while waiting for web pages to load has significantly decreased. By the time I’ve clicked the start button, the page and a hundred pop up ads have already loaded. Yes, dear Minesweeper received a smaller amount of my time after the transition, but it didn’t disappear from existence. I still play it now and then just for the sheer adrenaline rush of watching that face fill with confidence and watching the clock tick toward a record already achieved.

Minesweeper is a game that nobody can miss out on especially 56K or lower modem users. It provides entertainment and fun in such a small and easy to use package, you’ll wonder why they don’t charge a small price for it. Unfortunately, there are the couple of flaws that do detract quite a bit from the game like the luck factor, high frustration, and just some general monotony, but it’s still rather enjoyable, if only for a short time. Don’t miss out on this basic adventure because if you’re reading this, odds are you already have it in your possession.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/16/02, Updated 02/27/03


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