Review by Derek Zoolander

Reviewed: 11/15/01 | Updated: 07/25/03

Frustrating but addictive

Minesweeper is a game that comes with Microsoft Windows. It’s most likely on your desktop right now, and you’re most likely wondering why I’m reviewing it. You’ve got a point.

Anyway. Minesweeper is a very simple game, both in terms of gameplay and presentation, but somehow it manages to be quite addicting. However, there are also some nastily annoying aspects of the game that will have you tearing your hair out. Simple, addictive, and annoying – this game in a nutshell.

Point and Click

Minesweeper’s playing area consists of a grid of many little squares. On the easiest difficulty level, the grid will be eight squares wide and eight squares long and contain ten mines; on the hardest, you’ll be playing on a 16 by 30-square monster with 99 mines randomly scattered. The goal is to isolate all the mined squares without accidentally uncovering a mine. Sound hard? It is.

If you click on a square, it will reveal a number or a blank – that is, if you’re lucky. If instead you uncover a mine, then you’re screwed. Luckily the first click you make will always reveal number and perhaps a few blank squares, so you’ll at least have something to work off for your next move.

The number on a square tells you how many mines are in the squares adjacent to it, and a blank square means that its surroundings are all clear. In most squares (the ones that aren’t on an edge of the grid), there’ll be eight squares adjacent to them, so the number “3” on a square would indicate that there are three mines in those eight squares.

If you can get a good start in a game, you’ll have uncovered quite a few numbered or blank squares and so you should have enough info to deduct where adjacent mines are. Once you’ve ‘found’ a mine, right click on that square to mark it with a red flag – this will indicate that the square is dangerous and will prevent you from accidentally clicking on it. You can also mark a square with a question mark if you’re unsure about it. Keep doing this till you either clear the board, or get blown up. Simple.

Small grids with few mines can be solved in half a minute, whereas the enormous “Expert” grid will test not only your deduction powers but also your concentration. Don’t let your mind wander…

Fingers crossed

Unfortunately, there are some problems. For example, you basically have to uncover at least a few squares on your first click, otherwise you won’t have enough info to make anything other than a guess. Let’s say you click on a corner square, which is a pretty good way of starting off since corner squares often yield lots of numbers and blanks. In the event that you’re unlucky and only that square – with a number like ‘1’ on it – is uncovered, then you’ll have to resort to simple guessing to avoid the mined square.

Similarly, you’ll sometimes encounter situations where you can’t make a decisive judgment, even though you’ve got plenty of numbers unlocked, due to a coincidence in the position and numbering of squares. If you get a horizontal row of squares each with the number ‘2’ on them, then you’ll have to figure out which squares in the row above or below contain mines. This’ll be virtually impossible to deduct in some situations. It gets incredibly annoying when you’re deep in an ‘Expert’ game and suddenly one of these ambiguous situations pops up…

It’s still good…

Despite the frustration factor (which is most prevalent in the hardest difficulty), Minesweeper is surprisingly addictive. Granted, the game revolves solely around numbers, with not a sound effect in sight and only a small, expressive face to keep you company; but nonetheless you’ll be wasting half an hour or more just trying to beat that damned expert mode or going for fast times, or alternately screwing around with custom-made grids. The gameplay can - does - get incredibly annoying, but its simple intensity and challenge often make you keener to beat the game the next time around.

Still, after a while you’ll invariably tire of the little program. There’s nothing flashy to keep you coming back for more, and there’s also no reward for beating the game. In the end, Minesweeper is just a little diversion that can whittle away a few minutes if you’re bored – a decent timewaster, if nothing else. 5+/10

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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