The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn’t necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable “best" thing. Instead, it’s more just us picking out the single game out of the week’s releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.
These picks might be controversial, and that’s OK. If you disagree with what we’ve chosen, let’s try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.
Without further ado…
I am all about different game genres being mixed together in clever ways, and I have to admit I’d never even thought of mixing the classic Minesweeper with something like Picross or Sudoku. But that’s exactly what developer Mother Gaia Studio has done with their new release Minesweeper Genius ($1.99) which arrived in the App Store this week, and after just the first few minutes of playing I found myself wondering how nobody had thought to do this sort of mashup before (to my knowledge).
If you aren’t familiar with Minesweeper, then you probably didn’t grow up with a computer in the house during the ’80s or ’90s. Microsoft even bundled the game with Windows all throughout the ’90s and into the 2000s, so chances are pretty good that you ARE familiar with the game. Basically the idea behind the game is you’re uncovering a grid of squares on a board trying to find an end goal before accidentally uncovering a square that contains a mine, which will end your game for you. Mines don’t play around. You’re given subtle hints about the number of mines that are in a given area of squares, and you have to do your best with that knowledge in order to find a safe path to the goal. That’s Minesweeper.
Picross might be the game that people are less likely to be familiar with. It’s sort of an offshoot of Sudoku and crosswords, and like Minesweeper has a grid of squares where your goal is to fill in the grid one square at a time in order to create a picture when finished. Along the horizontal and vertical sides of the grid are numbers which indicate how many squares in each row or column are to be filled in. By cross-checking those numbers in both the rows and columns, you’re able to deduce which blocks should be filled in and which ones shouldn’t. Like Sudoku, you generally will start a puzzle knowing one or two things for sure, and then that initial knowledge will cascade and make even more squares obvious to fill in until finally the puzzle is finished and you have a pixelized picture. That’s Picross.
So, mix those both together? That’s Minesweeper Genius. By deducing where the mines are based on the number clues given at the edges of each puzzle, you’re able to create a safe path for your character to travel from his starting point to an end goal point on the grid. There’s not really anything more fancy about it than that, it’s just a really nifty spin on traditional Picross and Minesweeper, and it just so happens to work beautifully as a mobile game. In fact, it’s a near-perfect mobile game for me, and I’ve been constantly pulling my phone out to hit up a puzzle or two since the game released a couple of days ago.
Actually Minesweeper Genius is a bit more fancy than I’ve led on. Each level has 3 possible stars to earn, with a star getting taken away for each time you mess up and step onto a mine. So, should you misstep and lose a star or two during a level, you might think you could simply restart that level and with your newfound knowledge of where the mines are, ace it your second time around. But you’d be wrong. The levels in Minesweeper Genius, despite their being a linear campaign of about 130 levels, are entirely randomly generated each time you play. So restarting a puzzle will simply land you a brand new puzzle.
There’s even more fanciness to it than that though. As Mother Gaia noted in our forums regarding the random level generation, “After a level is generated, there’s an algorithm that tries to beat the level; if it comes to an unreadable step, it adds some extra info to the board and tries to beat it again, then keeps doing that until it’s ok until the end." Yes, they built an AI that can create and beat its own creation to ensure it’s beatable before serving it up to you. This ensures that every level you come across can be beaten, and each one can also be beaten by pure logic using just the number hints, so you’re never stuck just blindly guessing on how to proceed.
Everything about that paragraph I just typed is so cool to me. Of course it doesn’t hurt that all this nifty gameplay and genre mixing comes in a highly polished package with great visuals and a lot of personality. This is just top to bottom an impressive game all around, as evidenced by our 5 star review from earlier today. There were a ton of great releases this week, but when I think about what it means to truly be a mobile game, built with that moment to moment gaming style in mind, Minesweeper Genius just ticks every box I could ask for and ultimately won my heart over as our Game of the Week pick.