Title: SPACE MOUSE 35th Anniversary edition
Genre: Action, Casual, Indie
Release Date: 8 Nov, 2016
This is a good, solid, fun little retro game.
My first reaction to hearing about this game was "surely a game from a magazine listing from 1981 will be too simple to have enduring appeal", and the idea of someone selling a game that's from a magazine listing seemed... well, lazy.
For anyone who doesn't remember, back in the early 1980s when home computing was first starting to take off, computer enthusiast magazines would sometimes include game listings for you to key in and play. This was back in the days before they began to tape recorded media to magazine covers.
I remember typing in game listings - back in the early 1980s - and... well, I learned two things. 1) how to type accurately, and 2) that games you type in from magazine listings generally aren't worth the time they take to type in.
The other thing is - I wasn't playing on home computers in 1981. I was three years old, and there are Atari 2600 joysticks in my mum's house with my baby teething marks imprinted upon them. I was beating my parents at Space Invaders. The first home computer game I played was "Radar Rat Race" on C64, a clone of Namco's Rally X by HAL Laboratories. It came on a cartridge. Yes, more mazes and mice! It was quite good... but my ideas of what a home computer game from 1981 are, are - "very, very basic".
So this is how I came into SPACE MOUSE. No history of playing the game any time previously in its 35 years, and with the pre-conception that it probably wasn't going to be worth my time.
It turned out that my expectations were wrong.
The default version of the game that you get to play is the "NES ARR" version - i.e. the game as imagined if it were for the Nintendo Entertainment System (Famicon), and it's been given a few extra features and enough polish to make it feel as new as maybe.... 1985! The game also includes a few other versions, including the original PC-8001 version.
The basic game is - you control a little thingie that can only move left, right, and up, and you need to travel ever upwards through a maze-like level, while avoiding enemies that flow through the level in a predictable pattern - similar to those water flow puzzles you sometimes see. There is one power up, and it allows you to bust through walls for a short period of time.
I don't know whether that simple description does the game justice. Despite being so simple, reading the flow of enemies and the layout of the maze before you gives it challenge beyond mere twitchy arcade play - you're always looking for the best route as you traverse forwards, waiting for the perfect time to move.
The NES Arranged version adds a little complexity; music, nicer graphics, helpful messages to the player, keys and extra lives to collect, and a few little hidden secrets and mechanics. Also, you can ram enemies when powered up, to beat them and earn points. It really is a big improvement to the game.
The original developer of this game went on to work for Enix and Namco, before leaving the industry to become a medical doctor. I do wonder whether elements of SPACE MOUSE were combined with Dig Dug then inverted, to influence the creation of one of my favourite games - Mr Driller. It is all vertical scrolling to the goal while racing an ever-decreasing air supply, after all.
Overall: this game really exceeded my expectations and is a lot of good, simple fun. I recommend it.. Space Mouse is amazing, its a modern spin on a ancient indie that has stood the test of time and is well worth the price. This is my new favorite indie game and it tops my list as one of the best indie's ever. Even though the gameplay looks easy, it is very fun, challenging and takes a little bit of stategy. I love all the mechanics of this game, the power ups, the keys, the hidden gems. If you want a real challenge, try to get the achievements on infinite climb. GL HF!. As a fan of Mindware's work on WiiWare and the DSi (MaBoShi is amazing), l had to give this a go given its rather quirky heritage.
Despite its age, Space Mouse is a product of good design, it doesn't feel as old as you'd expect it to, and instead has a timeless appeal to it much like the best games of the 80s which you'd still play today.
In Space Mouse you've got to make your way to the top of the screen, navigating floors of a building and avoiding mice which are making their way down the screen. Each "tier" of the screen is effectively a floor of the building, and there are gaps (or stairwells if you will) to move up to the next floor.
What makes this simple idea work rather well are the smart constraints applied to your character and the rules of the game. You can't go back once you've moved up a level, so you've got to plan far ahead of time. The mice which run against you either move left or right once they pass a stairwell, which introduces a constant element of uncertainty in how you tackle each moving roadblock: Should you consider a specific location on the grid a hiding place or not, or should you can quickly dash past a potential opening while it's there?
I've found myself bettering myself with every go, and subsequent stages introduce different tower layouts which further demand more from you and require better flexibility in dealing with the hazards ahead.
Despite the game's 1981 roots the default mode is a remake featuring NES\/Famicom style visuals (more detailed sprites and smooth scrolling), and new mechanics. So far I've tried the NES and MZ-700 modes, I've yet to unlock the original PC-8001 version of the game. The general look of the "arranged" version certainly feels authentic to me - like a lost NES game from the early 80's, which in turn complements the grid-based game world.
In its current state I feel Space Mouse is missing one feature that'd make it feel more well rounded: high score tracking and leaderboards. I've been playing from the first level every time I get a game over and it's a shame my scores aren't being saved so I can track how well I'm doing over time. So hopefully these are added to the game at some point - it already supports features of the Steam platform like achievements and playing cards, so I'd love to see online Steam leaderboards or just local ones.
tl;dr: Space Mouse carries arcade-like sensibilities that has kept me returning to it for another quick go much more often than I had anticipated.. Frankly I think instead of remaking it they should just have published the type-in-program code via Steam.. TLDR: A simple, but quite enjoyable little game, obviously a labour of love.
The goal is to get to the top of each level, while avoiding or killing the monsters who head in the opposite direction, but there are many little things that make it more interesting and tactical than it first might seem. For instance, while the monsters movement may appear chaotic, it is based on simple and predictable rules.
There are also keys to find and coins to grab. The keys let you unlock bonus "rooms", while the coins let you kill enemies and break walls, but only for a short while (unless you grab more coins). Later levels (in the NES-style arranged version, at least) introduce new elements that must be taken into account, such as invincible walls and walls that can be broken even in normal mode.
The presentation is quite nice (I love the little wave that the main character gives while waiting for the rocket) and authentic, and I am very fond of the music. The tune on level three is my favourite so far, I think. If you like chiptunes, you'll like the music, and if you played games in the eighties you'll definitely recognize the "sound" as well.
The added MZ-700 versions are a nice touch that adds some value especially for those of us who had Sharp computers back in the eighties and recognize the "little man" character (display codes for POKE are 202-205 on my MZ-80A ;) ). I have not yet tried the original PC-8001 version.
I think this game will appeal to anyone who like retro-style games. If you have an interest in the particular platforms being "emulated" (NEC PC, Sharp MZ and NES), you'll obviously be more partial to it, but so far I feel that it is a very well designed game that should work both with and without the nostalgia goggles.
Disclaimer: The author of the remake is a Steam friend of mine, and we have a common interest in the history of computer games. I previously interviewed him for my site: http:\/\/spillhistorie.no\/interview-mikito-ichikawa-of-mindware\/<\/a>
But I bought this game as a regular customer.
I'll also add that I am a fan of the devs earlier game, Cosmic Cavern 3671.. This is a really wonderful game. When I purchased it I thought that the different modes (NES, PC88, and another computer) were just graphical themes. Turns out they're all different versions of the same game.
Sound is great, graphics are great, the concept is super minimal bu...
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