Pete Witcher is a Feature and Community Writer for Blowfish Studios.
Minesweeper Genius reboots the simple little game we all played ages ago and expands on it with elements reminiscent of Sudoku and maze-runner games like Bomberman. The idea is familiar – use logic to avoid deadly mines on a grid – but this time around we have a hero and a bit of a backstory. You play as Aristotle, the adorable genius, as he literally sweeps a path through the grid to the exit using logic and special moves to avoid the deadly mines. Aliens are to blame for Aristotle’s plight, as part of some mysterious extra-terrestrial science experiments, but using your brain to navigate through minefields is what it’s really all about.
Minesweeper Genius lets you play in campaign mode or custom mode. In campaign mode, you progress through randomly-generated maps to unlock more levels and abilities. The advancement factor is one of the game’s biggest improvements over the original Minesweeper, and it provides a satisfying path to overcoming challenges and achieving goals. As you move up the campaign ladder, you’ll earn the ability to flag suspected mines and you’ll discover special tiles that let Aristotle jump over adjacent tiles or rearrange the map. Higher levels also add new puzzle-solving elements, like indicating not only how many mines are adjacent to a given tile, but also how many are in each row and column (like sudoku). So you get the same addictive gameplay that made classic Minesweeper so popular, plus added depth and breadth for strategies and solutions, and that sweet sense of improving and progressing.
As you play, you notice how the game was thoughtfully designed to require you to use logic and planning, never luck, to win. Instead of simply scanning and clicking tiles, players interact with the map, approaching each problem from a variety of angles, while keeping several factors in mind: “I think there’s a mine in that tile, and I need to get past it … maybe if I move to that special tile and swap the top and bottom rows, that’ll give me access to another special tile that lets me jump over the adjacent tile …” Adding to the challenge, you must use every special tile on the map to complete the level.
At later stages in the game, as you get better and better at Minesweeper Genius, the solutions may start to come easier to you. Fortunately you can create your own custom maps and configure them to suit your desired challenge level. Make a huge map with loads of mines and relatively few allowed moves and a bunch of special tiles for a master-level challenge, or tweak the balance to fit your play style however you like, using several adjustable settings like the size of the grid, number of mines, number of moves, and which special tiles to include.
The replay value of Minesweeper Genius is incredible because not only can you create new custom maps and each level is never the same, but the challenge factor also hits the sweet spot gamers like me are looking for. I want to figure out solutions with just the right amount of effort: not so easy that I barely notice, nor so tough I lose sleep trying to untangle it. Most levels offer some low-hanging fruit in the form of tiles that obviously conceal a deadly mine, but once you determine those, subsequent mines are increasingly more difficult to identify. But you can trust it’s never impossible to solve with logic alone, even when you get stumped. If you keep looking and thinking, the solution will emerge.
But in the end what really attracts me to Minesweeper Genius is the game’s easy-going, low-key personality. It’s a refreshing change of pace from most of the games I play on a regular basis. When I’ve had my fill of game types like frenetic shooters, intense real-time strategies, or sprawling epic quests, playing Minesweeper Genius provides some gratifying lightweight fun that makes me feel kind of smart, too.
So even though they share the Minesweeper name, at its heart Minesweeper Genius is a completely new game, not just dressing up an old favorite. The two games share the basic concept of decoding hints to locate threats on a 2D map, but where classic Minesweeper’s game design stops, Minesweeper Genius picks up and soars to new heights (outer space, technically). Overall the gameplay is a rich blend of puzzle-solving logic, unlocking achievements, and casual-game cuteness. Who knew there was so much potential fun locked up in little old classic Minesweeper? With modern design sensibilities and a couple decades of new gamers discovering the simple joy of classic Minesweeper, this game is a great idea whose time has come.