Review by Alecto

"I might even have paid money for this"

Of all the free games that came with Windows, Minesweeper is my favorite. In fact, it is the only one of the entertainment pack that I might have actually considered paying money for had it been sold as a stand-alone game. Not much money, mind you, because admittedly there is not much at all to Minesweeper…but a few bucks anyway.

How can such a simple game be so addicting? Well like any good puzzle game it’s straightforwardly designed, easy to learn, more difficult to master, and structured in a way that makes you want to play just one more round. (and two hours later you’ll be saying the same thing…just one more round…)

Minesweeper is played on a grid of varying size depending on whether you choose Beginner, Intermediate or Expert mode. The way it works is this: each square on the grid is blank and represents one step. A square could be blank underneath, or there could be a MINE lurking there, which means that triggering it will cause you to die. Your goal as the minesweeper is to uncover all the open spaces (by left-clicking on them) and mark the squares that contain mines with little flags (by right-clicking on them). Once all the mines have been identified and all the non-mine squares uncovered, you have won the game!

You think, “so all I do is flounder around hoping I get lucky enough to click in the right places?” Well, yes and no. You see, there will always be an element of randomness to Minesweeper. Call it the thrill of being the dude at the front line, the rush of adrenaline that one would really get from stepping out into a minefield…always having that dim flicker of doubt in your mind as to whether your next step will be your last. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of hints to let you know where things are (which will be explained shortly), but there can be a certain amount of guesswork and random clicking in Minesweeper as well, at least initially. So if you’re a nail-biter who gets easily stressed, you just mind find this game too intense!

Just kidding. There is nothing much intense about the simple grey background, elementarily rendered 2-D graphics, and the unassuming little yellow happy face who presides over the “minefield”. In the closest thing to animation that appears in Minesweeper, the yellow guy will react each time you click on a square. His default smile will change to an “O” of anticipation as you click, followed by an unhappy X-eyed frown if you end up unearthing a mine and kicking the bucket.

So how do you spare you little friend his agony and refrain from kicking the bucket on a regular basis? The answer is in little numbers that appear on the board each time you step on a space that has no mine on it. The number corresponds to how many mines are adjacent to that particular square. (Keep in mind that the minefield is divided into a grid of squares.) So if a square has the number 3 on it, that means there are three mines adjacent to that square. The tricky part is that there might be five blank squares touching the square with the number 3, meaning that two of them are safe but three of them have mines underneath! How can you tell which is which? In time, you’ll learn a few strategies. It might involve comparing the number to another number nearby, and deducing which squares can and can’t be mines from that. Sometimes you might have to take a leap of faith or make an educated guess. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.

But take it easy, it’s not a big catastrophe if you die. This is Windows freeware after all and isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. In keeping with this spirit, there aren’t any sound effects or music and Minesweeper has to have one of the lamest “win” screens I have ever seen. I won’t give it away, but prepare to be NOT blown away by it. But let’s look on the bright side: first of all, no music or sound effects means you can play Minesweeper when you’re not supposed to and no one will know (i.e. at your job when you’re supposed to be doing something productive but are actually sitting there bored out of your mind because your boss didn’t give you enough work to do.) Also, even if nothing great happens when you win there is a cool feature that keeps track of your best times for each level and a mode where you can create and design your own custom mine field by specifying the size of the grid and the number of mines.

So if you haven’t already given Minesweeper a try, do it! Chances are it has been sitting there on your computer all this time, just waiting to be clicked on, and for something that you don’t even have to pay for you really can’t go wrong.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/09/02, Updated 05/06/03


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