Miko Mole (PS4) Review
-A few clever puzzle and level designs
-A variety of enemy NPCs
-Tacky character and world design
-Low production values
-Highly compressed, annoying sound assets
-Dull gameplay that takes its time
I’m not too sure of where to begin with Miko Mole. It’s a 2.5D puzzler that’s all too reminiscent of Invent 4 Entertainment’s Bad Rats in production and play to get anywhere. Its few genuinely clever puzzle moments get buried under the weight of tacky character designs, poorly compressed music and sound assets, and stodgy controls. Even in its prime moments, every aspect of it feels dull. Really, it’s not a title I’d recommend to anyone. In fact, I couldn’t begin to guess who EnsenaSoft’s target audience was.
Players navigate the greedy little mole Miko through series of mines, avoiding traps and enemies in order to ultimately steal gems. Miko’s propeller-based backpack allows him to navigate shafts vertically and horizontally. Some gems require simple puzzle solutions to access, some enemies require skill to avoid. Goggle-eyed bats will bite if they’re bumped into, t-shirt wearing alligators will target and charge, rocks can fall and crush Miko, and the list goes on. It’s pretty straight-forward overall.
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Miko is slow and his hitbox a little sloppy. Coming within an inch of an enemy, before even visually touching, will result in a failure state. There isn’t any room for close calls or last second getaways, especially given Miko’s school-zone movement. It all slow-paced and gets pretty boring. While playing, I often wished for a boost button or even a different difficulty that might ramp up both Miko and the enemy’s speed. I honestly think a little speed could’ve added a lot of zest. That and an instant restart button like OlliOlli has.
Miko Mole is the ugliest and tackiest game I’ve ever seen or heard. Low-res, warped textures, bright, clown-colored stages, jagged environments, and horrid animations. Miko’s character design might be my least favorite of all: a pot-bellied, mole wearing yellow tinted goggles, an orange mining helmet, and a utility belt that runs straight across his giant belly. Now, a character doesn’t always need to be immediately lovable but when there isn’t a story or conflict to bond players to them, there’s no way or reason for players to get invested in them, i.e. there’s no impetus to start loving a chubby mole.
Despite its rotor, Miko’s helicopter-like backpack doesn’t make a sound. No whirrs or chugs. Really, it just feels like he’s floating. However, considering the other sound effects about, it may be for good reason. Every single sound in the game is so heavily squashed, its sounds like it was sourced out of a musical greeting card. A 90s-TV-commercial-theme, fusion-blues loop comprises the horrid musical backdrop, which, within six seconds of hearing, I muted.
Although it’s hard to notice them, Miko Mole does have a variety of functional elements at play. The variety of enemy NPCs all exhibit different behaviours. The alligator, for example, lunges toward Miko when in range. The bat will patrol a confined space until Miko opens it up by moving rocks or digging through nearby dirt clumps, allowing him to scout a larger area. The variety of NPCs add a noticeable complexity to each level I could appreciate.
Puzzles often require a clever solutions and a certain level of skill, especially when competing for a time bonus. One puzzle asks to players to rotate a series of mirrors to guide a reflecting laser beam into a particular device. Another example would be the water-level tool seen in a few levels. In quite a few levels, fluctuating water levels determine where enemies sit in the water or where Miko can risk drowning. Both are simple concepts with potential to develop into increasingly challenging and complex obstacles, both effective ideas with some video game history behind them. Even while their usage develops, the game thwarts any fun with its weak production values. Rotating a mirror is counter-intuitively assigned to the interact button, preventing players from directly manipulating its position. Draining or increasing water level takes a while – a few seconds I believe; that means sitting and waiting while the game takes its time.
Don’t bother with Miko Mole, not that you were even considering it. It’s a generic, bargain-bin title that lacks any wit or charm whatsoever. It’s the game that your unknowing aunt would’ve bought you as a gift in the 90s. Despite some creative and clever puzzle designs, I never managed to have any fun with it. But at least, since my aunt did not, in fact, buy it for me, I don’t have to pretend to like it.