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Minesweeper (PC) artwork

Minesweeper (PC) review


"In this world there are two types of people: those who adore Minesweeper and those who detest Minesweeper. There isn't a whole lot of middle ground. Like Solitaire, Minesweeper is an infamous time waster which is included in every version of Microsoft Windows since its inception in the early 1980s. True to its name, Minesweeper simulates a hunt for mines, but, instead of a metal detector, you are armed with numeric hints as to where the mines are located in a manner somewhat similar to Battleshi..."



In this world there are two types of people: those who adore Minesweeper and those who detest Minesweeper. There isn't a whole lot of middle ground. Like Solitaire, Minesweeper is an infamous time waster which is included in every version of Microsoft Windows since its inception in the early 1980s. True to its name, Minesweeper simulates a hunt for mines, but, instead of a metal detector, you are armed with numeric hints as to where the mines are located in a manner somewhat similar to Battleship, the Milton Bradley board game. 



Minesweeper's playing area is, predictably, a mine field. A rectangular matrix of gray tiles is set up before you, and the size of the grid depends on the chosen difficulty level. Each tile may or may not have a mine underneath; the only way to find out is to click on one. Don't worry about your first choice--the minefield seeds after your first guess so there's no chance of an instant loss. Resulting from that first selection is either a number or a space of the board cleared. That number reflects the amount of mines which reside in adjacent squares. If no mines are adjacent to your choice then that square and all tiles which are also not adjacent to any mines around it are revealed in cascading fashion. 



The end goal is to correctly isolate the tiles which hold the mines by eliminating all tiles which do not hold mines. Using groups of numbers aids you in identifying the mines, but clicking on a tile which contains a mine loses the game. Minesweeper allows you to ''flag'' mines by right-clicking on a tile; this way ensures you will not make a later blunder by revealing it.



The higher level preset challenges are actually not much more challenging per se; the fields are just larger. Higher difficulty can be achieved through a custom setting where you determine the dimensions of the playing field and the number of mines. Too many mines, however, just make the game entirely luck based. The default presets do a decent enough job, as most players explore custom games more as a curiosity. 



For some Solitaire is their game, though for others it's Minesweeper. The appeal of Minesweeper is obvious. Playing requires quite a bit of thought and strategy. The games are consistently winnable, and while luck is involved, Minesweeper is mostly a game of skill. 



However, there's one problem. I hate Minesweeper. I hated it in 1990 and I hate it today. Minesweeper requires a certain skill set; people who are good at keeping numbers in their heads and being able to track many variables at once seem to do the best at this game. It's similar to games like crossword puzzles, Scrabble, or chess: either you're just good at it or you aren't. I know if I played Minesweeper more often I'd get better at it, but sometimes you just know when something isn't right for you. I had an ex-girlfriend who constantly amazed me with her proficiency. She'd beat the novice level in ten seconds and expert in under a minute, all without using the flag feature. 



''I don't need to use flags because I know where they are,'' she said. Can't argue with that logic. 



This I could take since she's much smarter than I am. However, a coworker who couldn't outwit me even if I was stewing on morphine and half my skull was missing displays the same type of proficiency. 



Sure I can play Minesweeper, but I do it so agonizingly slowly that it drives me to insanity. I forget which square(s) I just decided the mines lay. Starting over when I hit a mine infuriates me. Some minor technical flaws in the game irritate me more than they should. On the advanced levels, I get bored and agitated a third of the way through and just want to give up; I no longer care about winning (or losing) anymore. 



Minesweeper is one of the original games Microsoft included with its Windows operating system. However, unlike the card games, Minesweeper looks notably dated with its uniform color schemes which conflict with the way modern versions of Windows appear. There is surprising configurability with the customizable skill settings, and Minesweeper retains best times for each level completed, neglecting custom, for goals to reach and scores to boast. More recent revisions include an option for sound, but, fortunately, Microsoft made the wise decision to leave it off by default. It beeps with second passed, a facet which eventually leads you and those around you to murderous insanity. You will all be craving that exploding sound when you lose--it stops the ticking. 



Reviews of Minesweeper are useless. You'll know within ten minutes whether this game is or is not for you, but if you find yourself hating Minesweeper yet everyone around you loves it, don't feel alone. Minesweeper is the Moulin Rouge of gaming: some the critics praise it for its exhilarating showmanship while others slam it for its over-glorified visuals. Minesweeper is much the same way. Either you'll find it the holy grail of strategy gaming or you, like me, will play it a few times and swear never to touch it again.

Rating: 3/10

whelkman's avatar
Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)

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