(Review) Of Mice And Sand -Revised-

There seems to be no shortage of Roguelikes these days and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I didn’t expect is the amount of different forms they would take on. Who would have thought that a game about a bunch of mice traversing the desert looking for the lost city of El Dorado would be so interesting? Either way, I’m impressed with the quality of ideas. Does wandering around the desert looking for something that may or may not exist really work though? Let me break it down for you.

Of Mice and Sand -Revised- starts you off in a village of mice that used to wander in the past and stopped (It’s basically Moana). One day they decided to pass on the tradition to the younger generation and from then on your on your own. I’d love to say that it starts off with not much to worry about, but for the most part that would be incorrect. You’ll need to balance a few things including food, fuel and materials. So off you go, traveling to different towns to gather more resources and information to figure out how to fulfill the destiny of your mousy people. What follows is a journey of crafting, quests and odd scenarios in the desert, but will you be able to survive the journey? (It’s not really Moana… there’s no water.)

Sandligators are rude… and I need bigger guns.

How in the world is one to undertake such a massive quest? Crafting plays a huge role here and you’ll have to make sure that you keep traveling around from town to town to continuously pick up crafting materials. Different routes produce different items, so keep moving. With the items you pick up, you’ll be able to craft all sorts of things. You’ll need these crafted items to build different rooms on your ship and also upgrade them for efficiency. Upgrading rooms also gives you the ability to craft new items and your storage can be upgraded to hold more items. In towns, you can gather intel on new places to go and new rooms to build. As you’re traveling to different towns you’ll also find your main way of generating money: quests. This will net you money and food resources or fuel. Obviously, the quests that give you more, require more out of you. Some of the nicer quests will give you gas, but make sure you have enough room in the tank for all the rewarded fuel. You can’t keep any extra.

There are a few scenarios that I will walk away from, but some I will throw caution to the wind and take a chance. The scenarios tend to play out the same, so you will eventually know which ones are “bad”.

As you go further into the desert you’ll encounter more scenarios or “opportunities” to help your mice and train out. Some will be give and take (like the lives of your mice “take”) and some will be nice and give you the chance to get some cool items and building materials. This is also where money comes in. There’s a shady-looking dude that will offer you the chance to upgrade to a nicer train, but it will cost a lot of money. (He’s the Tom Nook of the game only I don’t hate him as much.) Keep grinding quests and you’ll get the money and then you’ll be able to travel with more room and mice. This is unfortunately where my first gripe comes in. Upgrading to a larger ship destroys your older one (that’s not the problem). They say that you’ll get back what it takes to build your rooms that you had previously built on your old train. The problem is that the game doesn’t always give you everything back. I didn’t get the glass back to build my Infirmary so my mice had half stamina for a while due to an incident in the desert. If that wasn’t bad enough, I realized that you also don’t get enough back to upgrade your rooms as much as you had before the train upgrade. You are given enough to rebuild most of your rooms, but not upgrade them back. Knowing that going in would have made the gut punch a little easier to take. This is why I’m telling you though. (I’m not sure that will be fixed, but it is a thing to be aware of.)

At this point, I had built a ladder to get up and then deconstructed it to move it and couldn’t get back down to the rest of the building materials for the rest of the ship. I forgot you can pick the mice up and move them manually. (Sometimes I’m a dolt.)

The atmosphere is rather nice. They play a set of calming country-esque music in the background. The thing is, I’m always freaking about making the wrong decision so while the game is generally calm, there is an innate sense of dread lingering around every action. Will I run out of money? What if there are no quests I can complete? What if I run out of fuel?!? There are all of these worries in Of Mice and Sand so it’s got me playing rather conservatively and I’ll do my quests and build up money and only completely refuel where the price is the cheapest even if that means I’ve got to go a long way to get it. The bonus about that is that there are more chances to initiate new interactions in the desert which, as I said above, can be a boon. I do feel I’m artificially increasing the length of the game though by playing like this.

“Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Nudge, Nudge!”

Controlling the mice isn’t too tough either. Also, some mice will come with traits that make them better crafters or what have you. It would be a good idea to assign these people to what they do best. My crafting mouse can build things a ton faster so sticking him in the kitchen would be a terrible waste. It does seem that mice can become better at something if you assign them to a room. The longer they work there, the better they get at it too. I didn’t remember having a mouse that was a great chef, but I noticed recently that the one in the kitchen is great at it. I know I didn’t assign him to the kitchen, but there he is. It’s a gamble if you’re going to get some with a great trait, but if you’re lucky, when your mice make more mice (wink, wink) there’s a chance. You can also find mice in the desert too.  If you want to pick them up or not is up to you. If you have to many, you can kick them out as well… if you’re heartless. I’ve currently got one with a broken leg who walks very slow and can’t be healed since I can’t make bandages yet. We just call him Gimpy. Speaking of taking chances, that’s why I don’t like to do some scenarios in the desert because I don’t want to accidentally sacrifice a smart mouse. I have YOLO’d a few times, but I still will mostly err on the side of caution. However knowing that they can learn…

Of Mice and Sand -Revised- is a rather unique game and there are two ways of looking at it. It’s not fast paced and one could look at it as boring. Theoretically you could play a bit more fast and loose with it, but that’s not my style. I’m taking a more measured approach so the game can feel like it drags at times. However, with the music and the constant crafting and managing the mice, it’s a rather calming and engaging game. There is that feeling of dread that I’ll make a mistake and ruin everything for myself, but I haven’t really come close to that yet. I’ve been broke, but I’ve always been able to pull myself back up. This is a rather fun game and it works well playing in long and short sessions. What a great fit for the Nintendo Switch!

Further Reading on Of Mice and Sand -Revised-: FacebookNintendo’s eShop / Official Page / Twitter

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