Ha, ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho... [snort!] Oh, sorry readers, I didn't see you there! I've just been reading the instructions of this 2007 MSX Dev Compo entry called Mr. Mole; I usually spend a paragraph or two of my reviews relaying the game story for your edification, but on this occasion the authors of this program have done my job for me with such a fantastic translation of the instructions from the original Spanish. I'll just cut and paste for you then:
"Mr.Mole is a happy awkward person of good family who from her comfortable hole has known a lady mole by Internet. No longer can it resist and it more wishes to meet it in person, but the galleries of Mole City are obstructed by piles rubbish that has been deposited because of badly the temporary one of the outer world. The reconstruction works did not take place until spring and the Mr.Mole poor man this desperate one, so without thinking twice it decides to embark in an adventure after loved his, laying way with their own hooves.... well, with its own hooves not... Only two days ago the manicure became and must be presentable when arrives! Somewhat disappointed Mr.Mole it kicked to him to a ball that was that way and watch, for its astonishment, as a rubbish bucket burst. A triumphal smile appeared in its face. Aid to Mr.Mole to arrive until loved his throughout 20 caverns!"
Champion! I hope that is all received and understood. To be honest there is some meaning there somewhere, but I can't be bothered to decode it because, essentially, all that's hiding beneath this Spanglish barrage is a Breakout clone. Yup! Destroy bricks by carefully deflecting a ball around an enclosed area [yawn...] using your bat. I mean your mole. A mole instead of a bat, what will they think of next?
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY MY LIFE IS IN A RUT
The graphics in Mr. Mole are reasonably bright and colourful and represent the action effectively. The Mr. Mole sprite spends most of his time with his back to you, but once a level is complete he spins around to reveal a big cheesy grin - just enough pixels are displayed for me to be able to use the word "cute". The music accompanying the action is really bouncy and catchy, a real plus. The levels are fairly well designed, there are power-ups to collect, high scores to achieve, a password system to bypass completed levels and baddies in later ones to hinder your progress. All in all, it sounds like an inspiring production. Alas, no. There are a few problems here that I just cannot ignore. The power-ups are utterly hopeless. The multi-ball is too random and you'll sometimes lose balls straight away, the laser blasts limit you to just five measly shots and the magnet (which enables you to catch the ball) entirely destroys any challenge because it makes the game too easy. PLEASE, someone explain to me why I only have five shots with my laser but my magnet stays switched on forever? Huh? The game contains collision detection bugs as well. More than a few times my ball left the play area passing through the outer level wall or got stuck, rebounding endlessly between indestructible bricks, leaving me with no choice but to reset my machine. On the other hand, I could sometimes destroy up to three bricks with my ball, when it in fact only touched one. Shoddy coding strikes again.
But perhaps the most unpleasant of all the problems and the one that kills this game as a Breakout clone, is the actual game engine itself. The physics controlling the ball are so rudimentary that speed and changes in direction appear almost random; I never really felt in control of the game. I mentioned earlier that the magnet power-up made the game easy? Well it does to a certain extent, as long as you can cope with the levels taking longer to complete because of the completely random angle in which the game engine fires your ball. Random, random, random. Argh! Overall, to say that ball movement is unrealistic would be an understatement in the extreme. On the surface, Mr. Mole appears quite a professional production, but scratch the surface and it game falls apart, not completely but enough to obliterate any long term enjoyment. Maybe I'm sounding harsh, but I've played Mr. Mole for review while playing Yoomp! and I'm afraid that when you see games of the calibre of the Atari 8-bit title, you realise what is possible on these old machines, regardless of format. Mr. Mole has all the right ingredients, but seems rushed to release; a few more weeks play testing and fine-tuning would have resulted in a more pleasurable game, maybe not a classic, but something which would have provided a few more hours of entertainment on the MSX - as it is, I'll be sticking to my favourite Breakout clone, TRAZ on my Commodore 64.