Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Minesweeper

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Electronic Theatre ImageMinesweeper?” I hear you ask. “Minesweeper? The 1981 game that has been recreated, in one form or another, on just about every format with a CPU?” Yes, that exact same Minesweeper, as it is now in it’s availability on Windows Phone 7. Diverting very little from the tradition Minesweeper template – though divert it does – Minesweeper for Windows Phone 7 isn’t as enticing a prospect as many of the other titles available for the format, however as a free download featuring extensive Xbox LIVE functionality, it’s certainly an interesting prospect.

On Windows Phone 7, Minesweeper is free as it stands as an ad-supported videogame. One of two such releases – recently followed by Sudoku as it was in Europe – Minesweeper offers two gameplay modes playable on a variety of different seized boards. The standard gameplay mode has four board sizes, while the Speed Mode loses the smallest variant. Of course, this is the standard game of Minesweeper we’ve all become very familiar with – blocks on aElectronic Theatre Image grid are removed to reveal flags or a bomb, the flag dictating the number of bombs on adjacent blocks and bombs determining that it’s game over – but Speed Mode adds an ever-decreasing time limit that can only be boosted by quick successions of successful tile removals.

The major overhaul this version of Minesweeper offers is that of the power-ups. As players continue to play the videogame they will earn EXP, which builds and slowly allows players to progress through levels. At many levels players will earn a bonus to the number of tokens they can earn, power-up slot, or possibly a new power-up. Tokens are continually earned as time progresses, whether the player is actually playing the videogame or not, and can be spent to use power-ups. The power-ups all have different effects; from removing a small selection of tiles to granting you a free hit from a bomb, and each have a different token cost. The player is limited in their selection by the number of power-up slots available, with the decision having to be made before starting a new game.

As part of the decision to bring Minesweeper to Windows Phone 7, developers Babaroga has made commendable use of the format’s unique features. The most basic example of this is the ability to import backgrounds, whereas the more impressive aspects involve the implementation of Xbox LIVE assets. Firstly, even though Minesweeper is a free videogame download, it offers 50G across ten Achievements. It also benefits from automatics updates without the need for additional downloads: Minesweeper is reportedly little more than an interactive CSS file – an offline webpage – that connects to the server each time it is loaded. If no connection is available it recalls the style sheet from the previous game, and if it does have internet access it will automatically search for any updates. It’s a simple but effective option for updating the rules, which has already been used to lower the difficulty since launch.

The visual quality of Minesweeper is of course limited, a wireframe layered over the background image, but it rarely needs to be anything more. Your Xbox LIVE Avatar is presented in full 3D glory on one page, a menu on the next, a playable grid on the next. It’s a simple set up for a simple game, which is of course the essence of Minesweeper as a free Windows Phone 7 download: it’s an experiment that will offer equal benefit to gamers and developers; ad supported statistics for Microsoft, a free videogame with Xbox LIVE Gamerscore for gamers. It may be basic, but it’s basically win-win.

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