March 3, 2009

Minesweeper Flags: XBLA

Minesweeper Flags brings an old classic PC game to Xbox Live Arcade with a few fun additions and variations including campaign mode and minesweeper flags. The idea behind classic minesweeper is to clear a grid which is variable in size depending on your difficulty level without falling on a mine. The harder the difficulty, the bigger the board grid will be and more mines will be hidden throughout. In order to accomplish your goal you will be provided numerical hints once you select a grid block that will let you know how many mines are located around that grid block. The number of mines will fall within a 3x3 grid (the 8 grid blocks that surround the block with the number). The hints will make sense once you start playing.

In campaign mode you will travel across the continents clearing levels (game boards) in order to unlock the individual continents: South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Antarctica for use in classic mode. North America is the only continent board that is available without having to be unlocked. The continental game boards deviate slightly from the traditional grey grid rectangular boards in the way that you view them and their shape and colour. The continental boards are viewed horizontally (you look down on them as though they were laying flat on the landscape) instead of viewing the traditional grid vertically or head on. This change took some getting used to and slowed down my clearing times at first. The boards will also vary in shape and size in each level of campaign mode and at times will even include gaps (missing blocks) within the grid. When using a continental board for classic minesweeper it will keep the traditional rectangular shape. The continental boards are more visually pleasing than the traditional board within the landscape stereotypical to the continent in question. The backgrounds have some moving features to them including: animals, water features etc which added to the beauty of the boards.

Flags mode can be played with up to 4 players and you can play either against the computer AI or multiplayer with a friend locally or through Xbox Live multiplayer. The goal in minesweeper flags is to uncover more mines than your opponent. In the game you will take turns (a turn timer determines the length of your turn) to select grid blocks to attempt to find the mines. You can play around with the game rules to determine difficulty, ability to move again on Flag found and how long the turn will last. My only complaint with the few games that I played of Minesweeper Flags on beginner difficulty was that I found the AI a little too lucky. They always seemed to find a surprising amount of mines by chance (random clicks, not determined by number clues) than I felt really possible.

This arcade game is suitable for all ages and encourages counting and problem solving with numbers. I found the game really enjoyable however, if I could have added one feature to the game it would have been the ability to zoom into the board to make it a little easier on the eyes. Overall, the game is a good value and there are a lot of gameplay options that will keep you busy for some time.

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