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ManaCollect (PC) artwork

ManaCollect (PC) review

"So… Anime MineSweeper is thing now."

ManaCollect is what Minesweeper would be if it was licensed as a kind-friendly anime. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d be saying, but Fruitbat’s latest offering in their crusade to localise the vast, untapped richness of the Orient’s Doujin networks presents exactly that. You’re still working with a grid that, when you explore it, gives you a numerical prompt about how many mines are in close proximity, except that you’re no longer trying to avoid stepping on a mine. You’re trying to ferret out mana points and collect them. And you’re no longer just clicking about a grid; you’re running around a hex-based map controlling an adorable anime girl.

It’s kind of like that crazy nightmare I had that night I overdosed on sugarcane vodka and believed the Skifree guy was not devoured by a yeti but torn to shreds by nomadic lolis, except several hours of gameplay tell me this time, it‘s real. Manacollect is a thing, and there’s certainly worse ways to kill time.

That may not sound overly promising, but there’s only so much moe you can slap on Minesweeper before you’re reminded that you’re essentially, just playing Minesweeper from another angle. I should explain; you control one of several girls who runs around the map, using the prompts to find mana wells which you mark by standing atop it and hitting a button. This taps the mana for your character who can use it to either attack the opposing girl also running around the grid, or use it as a defence should you in turn be attacked. There’s several ways you can go about this; you can claim marked mana pools for short bursts of magic and remove that section of the map from exploration, but it’s not very profitable. The best way to hoard resources quick is to capture as much as you can inside of a combo: discover a well, and you start a countdown that resets as soon as you discover another. Racking up big numbers of discoveries before you exhaust the map or your combo counter ticks down is the best way to hit big numbers and pummel your foe.

The drawback is that plonking down a marker onto a hex with no mana not only stuns you for a while, but resets your combo and releases your tags on claimed spots, rendering you helpless to sit and watch as your opponent runs around snatching up all your former spoils. ManaControl strikes an interesting balance between risk and reward, knowing that if you want the big points then you’re going to have to risk mining a map with only limited resources left and an opposing player actively trying to sabotage you. They can do this by simply pinching those pools before you can get to them, or they can be more direct and drop a number of special skills on you. Some characters can double their speed for a short time, while others can stun you for a handful of seconds or trap you within an inescapable dome for a while. Some befuddle you by trading places without warning, while others wall off entire areas of the map. There are varying difficulty settings that offer, well, varying difficulties, so it’s comfortable to find the level you feel you can exist on and then jump right into the game.

The problem is that, despite offering various different game settings, ManaCollect is, essentially, the same thing over and over again. There’s no real difference between partaking in a tourney and taking on story mode, aside from the fact that one is a four chapter tale about who should keep a pesky shape-changing pink cat. Playing it locally can be devious friendship-ruining fun for all the right reasons and I appreciate that you can slow the game right down with a dungeon mode that tasks you against clearing naps with limited mistakes assigned rather than bombing around at breakneck speed because you’re wrapped up in a race.

Still, there’s only so much mileage you can get out of the concept, and with no online play and the modes offering little incentive to revisit once beaten ManaCollect isn’t going to be a title that holds your interest much beyond the initial curiosity. Being adorable can only add so much to a concept and for all its large eyed girls, colourful backdrops and lack of actual death-by-mines, there’s still very little to hook you in and keep you interested.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 26, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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