If you were about to go on a huge exploration of a vast, wild desert, especially one known for housing terrifying sand monsters that can eat you whole, it would be understandable if you considered mice to be an unwise choice for your crew. As it turns out, though, these mice are wonderfully hard workers and your only job is to sit back and order them around. You see, Of Mice and Sand -Revised- acts as a strategy simulation type game, essentially testing your resource management skills to the max.
The game begins with a tutorial of sorts, providing you with a tiny team of two mice and just enough materials to build the essentials for your desert craft. You’ll build a bed, a workshop, a ladder, and an engine, all of which turn out to be things that you’ll be using throughout the game to varying degrees. You’ll also soon learn that you will need to keep an eye on your ship’s fuel and your mice’s hunger levels – running out of either will leave you stranded and you’ll be thrown back to the starting point in the game.
Building new rooms in the ship is pretty fun; while you’ll be starting out with just the basics, you’ll soon be building more useful things and also upgrading the ones that already exist. Materials are most easily gathered by simply traveling from one destination to another as your mice will pick things up automatically from the road and, from there, you’ll be able to use them to build new equipment. The entire game becomes a game of working out the perfect balance between crafting items to sell for money, keeping things that may be useful in the future, and somehow managing to keep enough food for your extremely hungry mice.
There are quests available at each destination along your route, usually requiring you to have a specific set of items that you’ll need to hand over for a cash reward. These pit-stops are also where you’ll be topping up your fuel, selling your goods, and paying locals to hear about rumours of new areas (which will then unlock them). To keep on top of all this, you really have to keep on top of your entire workflow; certain mice will have specialist skills (such as using the workbench) and you’ll definitely want to have everyone working on the right tasks at the right time. If you waste any precious time or stamina, you could very quickly run out of resources and be thrown back to the start.
There is a point to this exploration as the mice are supposedly in search of ‘El Dorado’, a ‘legendary land of gold’, although this plot point very quickly fades away into the back of your mind. Rather than having the great adventure the game sets you up for, things very quickly start to feel like an endless back and forth between point ‘A’ and point ‘B’, eventually on to point ‘C’, and then back to ‘A’ again; you’ll be returning to places you’ve already been quite frequently and that initial urge to explore starts to die away a little.
Your ship will go from being a small, two tier contraption to an absolutely monstrous, multi-level beast with mice running around everywhere. If you manage to get the hang of things, this can become a very well-oiled machine and is satisfying to run, although the speed in which you must work and the lack of resources at times can make things rather daunting. You may find yourself needing to give this one more time than you might expect, making sure to remain patient when you fail.
Of course, after putting in this hard work and effort, you’ll eventually start to see the rewards. As time progresses you’ll be making a lot more money at a much faster rate, although your stocks will deplete equally quickly, and your ship will evolve into something that is really satisfying to watch. This does give more weight to the issue that the game’s plot feels a little pointless, though, as you’ll be more focused on upgrading your workforce to the biggest it can be and getting to that point is incredibly tricky. It’s all to easy to find yourself being killed off from a lack of funds.
Essentially, how much you enjoy this game will depend on two things: firstly, how much you enjoy this genre; and secondly, how much time and dedication you can allow yourself to throw into it. The game is very repetitive in nature, and with several new events and places added to the experience since the game’s release on 3DS last year, this version is even more of a time-sink than ever before. The cute, pixelated, western-inspired art and soundtrack will be enough to initially invite you in, but you may well need a lot of focus and determination to stick around.
Of Mice and Sand -Revised- does a lot of things right; a mixture of quests, resource management, and a necessity for clever thinking result in a decent experience for the most dedicated fans of the genre. Unfortunately, though, a lack of clear direction and a tricky-to-master workflow mean that it likely won’t quite click with everyone else; these games work best when you find yourself addicted to their menial tasks and, this time around, that sadly wasn’t always the case. Not a bad option to consider for fans of tactical management, then, but be wary of our warnings if you do choose to give it a go.