Release Date: 21st of December, 2018 (Worldwide) & 11th of January, 2018 (EU & NA)
It is the end of the world as we know it. Unforgivable deserts and desolate wastelands are all that are left and the human race is all but wiped out. Mice and other animals have now risen to “civilize” the world and must scavenge whatever scrap that they can find in the hopes to survive the harsh existence they have found themselves in.
Created by Arc System Works, Of Mice & Sand originally released on the Nintendo 3DS in July 2017. It is a management Sim in which you control a desert ship occupied by rather intelligent mice that have been told by their elders that they must leave the safety of The Starting Lands and venture forth into the desert and find El Dorado, A mysterious city in the east that holds untold fortunes. With only a desert ship and a gold watch to sell when things are desperate. It is up to you to navigate these poor little critters through the sea of sand and keep them from meeting their demise and hopefully find El Dorado.
Of Mice and Sand Revised is an 8-16 bit pixel graphic game that focuses more on gameplay and structure than ‘looking pretty.’ That’s not to say that it isn’t pretty to look at, The little mice scurrying around all over the ship are pretty cute to look at. The music has a definite Western theme to it and is soothing to listen to for a while but you do start wishing to hear something a little different, if only to give a change of pace.
The whole idea of Of Mice And Sand is resource management. Knowing when to turn scrap into materials and what specific materials. Maintaining fuel and supplies is paramount otherwise you can get stranded out in the desert and your mice may die of starvation or worse, they may all get eaten by malevolent Sand Worms. It’s cutesy charming aesthetic hides the darker, more mature tones that has you balancing funds, materials and supplies and you always seem to do just a tiny bit better but just not quite enough to be truly comfortable (Sounds just like real life).
You start out with just two mice, a bare hull of a ship and a handful of materials. You first have to build an engine room, bridge, bedroom and a workshop before you can get moving and travel to your first destination. Each room has a function on the ship. The Workshop allows you to craft materials from scrap. The Engine room is what makes your ship move, the bridge is where your mice pilot the ship and navigate between outposts and settlements and the bedroom is where your poor little workers rest their heads when they are all tuckered out. As you progress further into the game, you can create even more rooms like an infirmary, kitchen or laboratory and even defensive structures like turrets. Each room can be upgraded to allow better production of their functions. That could mean a faster turn around on materials or more availability on processing items. The ship can become faster or more stronger defensively or you can provide better medicines to help cure your little critters when they fall ill.
Raising funds is not an easy task in this game especially not in the beginning. At every checkpoint you can take on quests to help raise funds which consist of delivering enough materials of a certain kind; like Pipes, Sheet Iron, Bolts, Bricks, Salt, etc. Sometimes you can do these straight off the bat but often times, you will find yourself short and will have to trek to other outposts picking up crude materials on the way in order to craft specific materials needed for the quest. You can also pick up tips and learn of new locations by paying to loosen up tongues in the ‘saloons’ of most checkpoints. Some can be cheap but others can be very pricey. Trying to hold on to that Golden Watch for when you really need to sell it, becomes even harder as it is not easy scraping a living together trying to get from one place to the next (I am sure this game sounds familiar!).
If that isn’t troublesome enough. Your mice get hungry and you will soon find they need constant sustenance to stave of hunger. Be sure to stay on top of your game, otherwise you will find yourself selling too much of your hand-crafted materials just to buy Synthesized cheese, which your workforce will devour in moments. These little critters will eat you out of house and home, literally! No Joke, if there is no food, they will start eating parts of the ship! Once this happens it will be even harder to maintain control.
On the subject of maintaining control. You can use both buttons and touchscreen controls to manage your ship, accept quests, browse through the market and what not. Though it must be said that the touch-screen controls can be fiddly at times and here is why. If your storage holds get full, Items begin to accumulate all over the ship. It can be hard to access a room from the screen directly as you will keep finding yourself highlighting the item that is occupying the same space. The same can be said about the Mice in the room as well, if you are trying to access a room and a mouse is occupying that space at the same time you click on the room, you will highlight the mouse and not the room. You can of course, get round this by highlighting an unoccupied room and then shifting the menu screen across until you get to the room you want to access. It can be long-winded but it is progressive. The other option is to build yet another cargo room. This won’t help with the rodent problem though and the more you take on board your ship, the more common this problem will become.
After playing Of Mice And Sands in both handheld and TV mode, it is slightly more manageable playing in handheld mode. You would think with the TV being bigger, you will be able to see more of the screen but button inputs can still be as fiddly. You also lose the touchscreen functionality which can be a lot smoother to move between menus. Handheld is a lot better way to go with this game. You have access to both buttons and touchscreen and you can blend between the two allowing for a more comfortable gameplay experience.
If you like RPG games, you will find this game similar in a lot of ways, well except for exciting fighting sequences and astounding cut-scenes. There is plenty of upgrading and grinding to be done and I do mean plenty. You can literally sink hours into this game and can still be no closer to finishing. Don’t get me wrong, I love games that I can lose myself in for hours and still have so much to do but, I do like to feel like I have made some progress. Otherwise you find yourself wondering why you even bother?
Of Mice And Sands is a nice time sink for an affordable $9.99. It won’t break the bank but if you little time to invest and prefer more progressive games, then this may not be for you. Of course, you can keep coming back to it time and again, but if you already work two jobs, have a family to provide for, a mortgage to pay off and need a new car. Then you already have enough on your plate. Spend your free time doing something that you aren’t juggling already. If you are a youngster on the other hand, yet to move out of mum and dad’s house with plans to move in with your partner and have a family, then definitely give this game a try. You may find it educating and realize that managing a ship full of rodents, riding along a harsh wasteland with little funds or supplies and towering overheads is not easy and maybe we should look at our parents and say “Flipping Heck! How do you guys keep it all together?”
The Verdict: 6/10
*Review Code provided by SC Media & Arc System Works