Friday, January 19

Review: Of Mice and Sand - Revised [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Resource Management games have been around for quite some time, and have been particularly popular in the mobile space, so it is a bit surprising that the genre is so sparsely represented on the Switch. Of Mice and Sand - Revised has been brought to the system as an update to a previous version created for the 3DS looking to capitalize on that fact. Unfamiliar with the original I won’t be able to comment no the changes that have been made, only on the overall picture of this version… and even for genre fans it may be tough to love.


Since the story isn’t terribly important we’ll strip things down to the very basic to get on with the details. You begin your journey as a team of 2 mice in a minimally-outfitted sandcrawler, venturing out across the desert ultimately in search of the fabled El Dorado but for the moment merely looking to cobble together the means of survival. It’s a tough road ahead of you as you’ll need to go from town to town, in search of raw materials so that you can craft equipment and supplies to either improve your vehicle or complete quests for money. You’ll perpetually need to keep an eye on your fuel and your food supply as running dry on either while in the middle of the desert will result in an attack by a horrible sand worm and losing a lot of progress.

In order to help the game from seeming quite so repetitive along the way you’ll have random encounters, often with a decision to be made. The outcome of these can be unpredictable so you’ll need to decide whether to roll the dice or play it safe, chance can be both kind and cruel so to a limited degree this adds a sort of roguelike feel to the mix as well. As you accumulate money you’ll be able to hear of other rumored settlements to go to and on the road to new places inevitably new materials will then become available for you to work with to further improve your vehicle, provide for more crew, and make more money. The loop is definitely there on a clearly-defined path, but that isn’t to say there aren’t some missteps to getting there.


First, the interface is a bit cumbersome and clumsy no matter how you decide to play. Using the joycon is the least recommended route as the buttons to press to get in and out of the menus works but is a bit odd. It is clearly easier to play in handheld mode with the touchscreen but while the buttons on the screen work pretty well in the menus themselves things are a little tight so while you’ll usually pick the right line it just feels better suited to a stylus than fingers. Second, and this irked me quite a bit, I’m not a fan of tips for playing the game having a cost in the rumor mill. If there must be a cost it should at least be next to nothing. This is very much a game where knowledge is vital and making you expend money to get some help only seems to serve to punish new players or people venturing out their first time. There’s enough in the game to make you fail already, this felt like piling on. If nothing else having tips accompany quest completion could have gated them in a way that required effort but didn’t feel cruel. Last, the early going feels like a serious grind for the most part, with a lot of moving back and forth to get enough going to make some progress. Once you get over the hump things begin to get more varied and interesting but as the game is structured I could see a lot of people losing interest out of boredom or frustration before the game’s better content is even revealed.

Ultimately Revised has its merits and can work but it sort of shoots itself in the foot in places in terms of engaging and hooking new players in for the ride. If you take your time, show patience, and stick with the system you’ll begin to expand and improve your vehicle, add to your crew, and see a number of more interesting things as you progress. Just be warned that the game isn’t so much outright hard in terms of difficulty as it can be a bit tedious in stretches as you try to accumulate what you need to progress, and you’ll always need to keep an eye on your food and fuel or you’ll meet with a nasty fate.


Score: 6

Pros:
  • Once you’re rolling upgrades to your ship help make things more interesting
  • Random encounters keep things unpredictable and lend variety

Cons:
  • The interface, as a whole, is a bit on the clunky side
  • There’s a sort of added penalty for being a new player unfamiliar with the intricacies of the game
  • Pacing early on is a bit too slow and tedious, if people got some early wins before the grind set in it would be easier to love