(GB / Game Boy)

Mole Mania (GB / Game Boy)

Game Review

Mole Mania Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Dig in

Poor Muddy Mole has returned home to find his family kidnapped by the evil farmer Jinbe. That's the entire plot, and we're happy about that. After all, Mole Mania isn't about storytelling; it's about a massive gauntlet of clever puzzles, and that's exactly why we like it.

Divided into eight very large levels, Muddy's adventure finds him out-thinking his enemy rather than overpowering him. Every screen features an assortment of enemies, items and obstacles, and finding your way through them is rarely easy. In fact, every puzzle needs to be carefully considered, lest you block yourself into a situation from which you can't progress. You can always reset the screen by exiting and coming back, which you're certain to find yourself doing many times, but it's not trial and error that will reveal the path forward; it's cunning and forethought.

Muddy doesn't have much in the way of abilities, which lends an air of almost desperate resourcefulness to the puzzle design. He can push and pull certain objects, he can burrow...and that's about it. In fact, each screen might as well be divided into two halves: above ground and below ground. Muddy has to dig from one to the other regularly in order to bypass obstacles or otherwise open paths ahead, and that definitely leads to some interesting — and complicated — puzzle solutions.

However, it also leads to some frustration. When underground, pressing B pokes Muddy's head up through the dirt just enough that you can see where you are. That's an essential ability, and you'll be using it often. If you forget and press A, however, Muddy tunnels up through the ground and may create a hole in a location that renders the puzzle unsolveable without resetting the room. It's a significant punishment for a minor mistake — after all, both buttons do very similar things — and if it happens at the end of a particularly complicated puzzle it's bound to leave you frustrated.

Above ground the B button is used to pull or throw objects, but if you press it when you're facing the wrong direction, Muddy stumbles forward embarrassingly and leaves himself wide open to enemy attacks, and you can't retreat until he regains his footing. Again, it comes across as a needlessly harsh consequence for a minor mistake.

The controls can also be troublesome whenever you need to move with both speed and precision, such as during boss fights and bonus games. Pressing the D-Pad in a direction other than the way Muddy is already facing results in a split second of lag time while he turns. It doesn't last long, but when every moment counts it can lead to damage or death, despite the fact that you were telling Muddy to run.

Those are, however, relatively minor complaints, and we're happy to get them out of the way so that we can celebrate the game for all that it does right. Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Mole Mania positively bursts with charm. The visuals are crisp, the cut scenes are amusing, and the soundtrack is stellar.

There are also some impressive stabs at both variety and replayability. In the former category, you have the boss fights and bonus games, both of which offer more frantic action than the otherwise contemplative sliding puzzles that dominate the rest of the game. Every level rewards you with a number of points upon defeating the boss, and if you miss any cabbages, items or rooms along the way, you won't hit the coveted total of 100. It's a great way to encourage both replay and thoroughness, and it's very welcome.

How much enjoyment you'll get out of Mole Mania comes down to how much you like this type of movement-based puzzle game. If they bore you, Mole Mania isn't likely to change your mind. But if you enjoy them, Mole Mania could very easily become one of your favourite examples of the genre. It's a fun game with some genuinely brain-bending puzzles, and yet another hidden gem unearthed on the 3DS Virtual Console.


Some minor control issues aside, Mole Mania is unquestionably fun, and it earns our recommendation for fans of the genre. The visuals are great and the music is phenomenal. It's a worthy addition to the library for anyone who won't get frustrated over finding themselves stuck again and again. After all, in Mole Mania, getting stuck is part of the fun.

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User Comments (70)



Bobhobob said:

I would get this, but I'm saving all my money for RPG Maker VX Ace.
Good review, maybe your bad game streak is over, Phillip?



Miroku said:

Man it seems like Nintendo is just putting up stuff we don't care about instead of things we actually want and will get them quick cash. Are they slow?



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Miroku: Who's this "we" you're talking about? I was STOKED they released Mole Mania! This game is freaking AWESOME, dude! If you don't try it...your loss.



Miroku said:

@Stuffgamer1 I guess the "we" is people who want things like GBA games (which is where the money is) but we're getting a bunch of shovelware.



sr388survivor said:

I had never even heard of this but when I found out it was a Miyamoto project I tried it out and I have to say it's quite fantastic. It has lots of charm and I don't think the game is that frustrating. Restarting a room is easy enough and given that the Game Boy only had two buttons, I don't see how the control scheme could be any different. I personally think it deserves more than a 7, at least an 8. Good review though.



Yadoking said:

Shovelware may not be the best term, and isn't it true that Nintendo isn't going to release GBA games on eshop, or is that just the ambassador ones? Anyways, this game looks cool.



Miroku said:

@Yadoking They should release GBA games for retail. They would make a lot more money than releasing all those 2 dollar dsiware games.



Bass_X0 said:

Just wait until they start running out of GB and GBC games to release. But then they'll probably work their way through the NES library instead of releasing GBA games...



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Miroku: While I'll agree that GBA would be nice (and let's face it...WILL come eventually...), I take exception to your referring to Mole Mania as "shovelware." Same goes for Wario Land, Kid Icarus, Sword of Hope II, and lots of other classic Gameboy games. The fact that they aren't Advanced does not automatically mean these games suck.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Miroku: What you DID say, and I quote:

I guess the "we" is people who want things like GBA games (which is where the money is) but we're getting a bunch of shovelware.

That CLEARLY infers that GBA is the only worthwhile release, and everything we've been getting is garbage. So yeah, I translated your statement, but I did not "put words in your mouth" in the slightest. If you intended a different meaning, you'd have done well to choose your words more carefully.



Miroku said:

@Happy_Mask Then why don't Nintendo decide to cash in on it? There's a lot of fakes, too. Gamestop had a 75% off liquidation but I only could get a few.



TheDreamingHawk said:

@Miroku Mole Mania IS a underrated game. It may seem boring (it did for me when I saw this game), but if you try it it becomes fun. Other games would be better in place of this, and GBA games would be awesome (I want SMW and Super Star Saga if that happened), but they would have to wait for some more GBC games to come out first. Japan is getting all sorts of NES games, so I bet it's incoming soon.



KaiserGX said:

A lot of people were actually looking forward to this game being released... including me. So don't put words in my mouth either.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Miroku: If you wish to state that much of the eShop-exclusive content specifically has not been up to snuff, you ought to say so. Complaining of shovelware in the comments thread for a recent (and excellent) release is bound to make it appear otherwise.

Now...I agree, there hasn't been much worth buying as far as eShop titles go. All I want is Picross E, and that has NEVER been confirmed for North American release...grumble grumble. But it is folly to compare eShop releases to VC releases, as they should well be considered separate categories altogether. When we get two great Gameboy games alongside some eShop drivel, it doesn't seem fair to blame the drivel for us not ALSO getting GBA.



Miroku said:

@Stuffgamer1 I'm pretty much tired of the 3DS. I play my DS lite mainly. DS games would have been great on the 3ds due to the circle pad, but theres no excuse for why DS games look so blurry on a 3ds



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Miroku: Well, that's a hardware issue due to the incompatibility of the screen resolutions. You can load up a DS game in its original resolution on 3DS (as TheDreamingHawk just instructed), and it looks much sharper...but it's also much SMALLER, so it's a trade-off. I keep my DSi around to play DS games on for sure. But I like my 3DS just fine...though I mostly use it recently for Gameboy games and StreetPass Mii Plaza.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Miroku: Honestly, I don't see as delaying the system would've helped that particular issue very much. It's a longtime issue with any handheld devices that had incompatible resolutions.

@Happy_Mask: I would! But yeah, I'm probably in a minority on that one.



TheDreamingHawk said:

They are legal emulations. Sadly leading to no multiplayer.

And if it makes you feel better, we all were a little nervous when we heard about it possibly coming out in Nov 2010.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Happy_Mask: Well, the very existence of the Ambassador games tells us that Nintendo's already got GBA emulation on 3DS down no problem. So they're just delaying...for reasons only they know.

@Miroku: Bad example, as that really WAS a port as opposed to emulation...and not a very well handled one either (obviously, or you wouldn't use it as a negative example). The Ambassador GBA games work great, ergo it stands to reason that more GBA games would as well.



Miroku said:

@Stuffgamer1 I checked out some gameplay on YouTube. It seems pretty standard for a GB game but nothing special, but I'll try it out for myself one day.



grumblebuzzz said:

I know that Miyamoto oversaw this game and that a lot of fans are waxing poetic about it, but I watched videos and it just seemed like a standard puzzle game to me. Maybe I just don't care for the genre that much or whatever, but I didn't see anything outstanding about it to make me all "INSTANT DOWNLOAD!!!!" like I've seen from a lot of folks on here and elsewhere.



accc said:

Only a 7??? This game deserves a 9, it's fantastic!!! If you like the Game Boy version of Donkey Kong (and who doesn't) then you'll love this, it's made by the same people and is just as clever and fun to play.



grumblebuzzz said:

@TheDreamingHawk You're very right, they do seem very similar and since those are always the most annoying parts of any Zelda game to me, that might be why I'm very underwhelmed about what I saw.



StrawHatChopper said:

@Miroku As someone who never played Mole Mania on the GB originally, I have to say that I really adore this game! I was a bit unsure if I was gonna get it, but I bit the bullet and downloaded it. Now it's one of my favorite GB games.



accc said:

@Miroku The best games are the games that appear simple on the surface but actually have a huge amount of depth due to the designers making excellent use of its simple mechanics. Mole Mania exemplifies that design philosophy perfectly.



grumblegrumble said:

Yay! I'm always happy when one of the new e-shop games I'm playing that I love gets a great review There have been some awesome Virtual Console e-shop games lately! I am loving this 8-bit Summer thang. This is a wonderful, forgotten little gem (to me, anyways) I've never heard of it. Back when I had a GameBoy I would have loved playing this had I known about it. I give it an 8/10, for great music, level design, replayability and addictiveness.



accc said:

@Miroku Nintendo still pulls it off all the time, e.g. with Pushmo, Rhythm Heaven, the Art Style series and more.



Retro_on_theGo said:

Can anyone name a game this one's similar to? Is it kind of like the ice cave puzzle in Pokemon Gold? lol



bboy2970 said:

I didn't even know of this game's existence until it was revealed it was coming to the eShop. I still had no interest since I still had no clue what it was. I then read it was a Miyamoto game and was instantly sold! So glad this gem came to the VC! Its so much fun and one of my favorite VC downloads thus far!



alvieao said:

It's surprising that Mole Mania arrived along with Wario Land on the eShop. After playing so far, I'm having fun because of the clever puzzle stages. It seem simple, but there's a great amount of depth to the gameplay. For a Game Boy title, Mole Mania was charming as it has nice visuals and brilliant music. It's too bad the game was released during the N64 era where it went unnoticed, so kudos to Nintendo for giving it another chance on the 3DS Virtual Console. That being said, Mole Mania is a fantastic Game Boy title that's worth playing!



Tsukun said:

I downloaded this as soon as it arrived. Never heard of it before, but I've really been having a great time with it. Nice review.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@ecco6t9: Interesting...I guess that explains the lack of any emulator-type features that are available for Gameboy, Game Gear, and updated NES titles. Come to think of it, they really do run more like DS games on 3DS than like normal VC games.



Lavid said:

Just downloaded it few hours ago. The game is great and very fun. In my opinion, it's a 9/10, particularly for a $2.99 game.



Barbiegurl777 said:


Ha ha your in la la land if you think people will really buy the GBA games in the e-shop don't get me wrong I love my old GBA & GBA SP but I just wouldn't waste the money on the GBA games mainly because when I got the original GBA year's ago when it came out I was thrilled to play GBA games thinking oh cool there gonna have sharper images & etc much to my surprise they ended up be a big let down for me & granted I kept both my GBA & GBA SP I play alot GB, & GBC on them as opposed to GBA games. Ironically enough I have more GB, & GBC games than GBA mainly because I like them better & the GBA games may have excellent graphic's for there time but what good does it do me if there is NO save slot or password section in the GBA games that's half the reason why I traded alot of my GBA games in back then because of that annoyance alone.

Let Nintendo keep releasing GB, & GBC in the e-shop I'll gladly take those over GBA any day.

Glad I bought my GBA & got GBA SP for christmass cause there great system's to bad the GBA games had to be so horrible though.

Happy Gaming! (^_^)



alLabouTandroiD said:

I really like puzzle games and this sounds like a quite exceptional one. While it's a bit of a shame the controls are so strange it won't keep me from downloading this day one.
Hope it comes to Europe soon.



julianozuca said:

Wow, this is a welcome surprise... I tried the original some time ago and that's a great opportunity to get it done.



LittleIrves said:

Love this game. Am extremely happy Nintendo decides to put old, forgotten gems like this up on the eShop instead of just the easy quick popular cash-ins everybody always clamors for...



Barbiegurl777 said:


In lamen's term's Miroku want's GBA on the e-shop I pretty much said not to many people will buy GBA in the e-shop because of how bad some of the games were back then with out having save slot's (at least the ones I played for the majority did not have save slot's)

Get it now?

It's just a bad idea to put GBA games in the e-shop. There dirt cheap to get anywhere.

The GB, & GBC are the real gem's of the game boy/ & gameboy color era not GBA.

In all serious I should have just skipped that system & went straight to GBA SP & got ds when first released.

GBA = Horrible games with no save slot's
GB, & GBC = Great games with at least the password function to be able to play from where a person left off.

Happy Gaming! (^_^)



Stargazer said:


I understand what you are saying....it's just that it's wrong. Almost all GBA games were able to be saved, and if Nintendo did add them to the eShop they would have save states. There were tons of awesome GBA games and I also can't figure out why you're implying that the GBA and the GBA SP are two different systems. They play the same games.



Barbiegurl777 said:


Okay then how do you explain The Flintstones Big Trouble in Bedrock for GBA it was one of the my first GBA games I bought for my original GBA back in 2002 which I still have it's an awesome game & I love it but don't love the fact that I can only get to level 9 then not be able to save any of my progress in the game talk about frustating.

You are right there are some awesome GBA games ''SOME''.

& no the GBA & GBA SP are not two different system's entirely one was just released before the other & the other one is an updated version of the old version I'm well aware of that. What I meant was though instead of buying the original GBA I should have just held off for the GBA SP mainly because the games for GBA would have gone down in price for one & two I wouldn't have felt have as stupid as I did back then paying as much as I did for some of the GBA games when they were released.

The only GBA games I kept were:

Rugrats Castle Caper's
Rugrats I Gotta Go Party
Rugrats Go Wild
Rugrats All Grown Up
Rugrats Volume 1 - Video Pack
Ed, Edd, N Eddy - JawBreaker's
Ed, Edd, N Eddy - The Mis-Edventures
The Flintstones - Big Trouble in Bedrock
The Barbie Diaries - High School Mystery
Barbie Superpack - Secret Agent - Groovy Games

Sorry the rest of my GBA games I traded in after a while because I got really disgusted with wanting to save my games & there was no save file so annoying.

But hey your right Nintendo does seem to be trying to fix that problem in the e-shop at least with the games we've seen so far in GB, GBC, & GBA they do have the save option now. Would have been nicer back then though for something that simple though. Oh well.

I do really like the GB, GBC, & GBA games I just didn't like when almost everytime I got a GBA game it had no save file slot though just annoying.

Who know's maybe the games I was picking back then for the GBA were odd or something go figure I just thought it was very strange though because alot of GB, & GBC games either have the save option or password option at least the ones I bought did.

I'm nearly postitive in every GBA game made by Nintendo it'll have a save slot. Quote me if I'm wrong about that. I dare you.

Happy Gaming! (^_^)



DarkEdi said:

Where are the Super GB options? ah, i remember, they aren´t Sega to do that.



grumblegrumble said:

NIntendo should release a Mole Mania sequel on the 3ds eshop. Wouldn't it be great if they had a season of "sequels" for next summer like the 8 bit summer. A boy can dream!



eirikr said:

No, 7 out of 10 it's not fair, it has not issues with the control, why did you say that? I've been getting 100 points in every level. In the other hand I don't find the music as great as you say, you must put more efforts when making a review, this is a gem of the Gameboy. I give it a 10, I was expecting you to give at least a 9.



eirikr said:

I wonder why the "Super Game Boy" options are not available. Nintendo sgould upgrade this game, it is really amazing.

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