I’m going to go out on a limb and say that everyone, most likely, has played Minesweeper at one point in their lifetime. It’s been around for a long time, with its concept dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, its been written for a good number of system platforms, generally free to find, free to play. You name it, it’s there–basically, pretty unavoidable. And if I’m wrong and everyone hasn’t experienced what it’s like to be a mine-remover, they are at least familiar enough with the title to know what it is. Which is to say, a game of math.
I’m still enjoying my Windows 8 phone and not feeling guilty at all over picking it against an iPhone or Android thingy. But just like with other phones, there are a ton of free games to download, and Microsoft even offers a handful of Xbox Live ones that are tied to your Gamertag, which means Achievements, leaderboards, and so on. I’ve downloaded a bunch–Flowerz, Sudoku, Tetris Blitz, and so on–but the one I’ve actually spent the most time with is, perhaps strangely, Minesweeper, our topic du jour.
As always, Minesweeper for Windows 8 phone offers multiple grid sizes to play on: 7×7, 9×9, 12×12, and 16×16. There are also two types of play; Classic is your standard game mode of yore, and Speed has you racing against the clock to clear a minefield before time runs out. Each grid is secretly filled with randomly positioned mines. When you touch a square, either a number is revealed or a mine, which causes you to lose. The number indicates how many mines are next to each square, turning everything into a logic game of working out where mines might or might not be. Deduction is your best friend, but if you need a little more, there’s also power-ups. These include Verify, which verifies all flags are placed on mines, XP Bonus, granting a 25% bonus for completed minefields, and EMP, which reveals a large amount of squares, automatically flagging any mines detected, among others. Ultimately, you can equip up to three power-ups, but each one costs a specific amount of tokens to use, which regenerate over time.
It’s not a very hard game, even on its largest grid, and the really surprising thing is that I like Minesweeper. By that I mean to say that I hate math. I’ve never been good with it all my human life; in fact, just over the weekend, I saw my high school math teacher/tutor at my sister’s wedding, reminding me of how bad I am at figuring out averages and solving X for Y in place of Z and showing your work. Really, the other side of my brain gets more me-time, thanks to the day job of copyediting and everything else being artistically-driven. But for some reason, I love figuring out how many mines are touching a square, clearing out empty squares with confidence; I guess we could all see this coming with my quality time with Picross 3D. I don’t know; there’s certainly a satisfying feeling after clearing a minefield, even if the sound design is left wanting more. I’ve reached the highest rank and unlocked all the Achievements, so there’s nothing really left for me to do, save for solving more fields faster. Think I’m good.
Much like with zombie films, my favorite part of Minesweeper is the very beginning. The calm before the storm, you might say. An untouched abstract minefield brimming with badness, waiting to be unearthed. You click a square, and hopefully watch it open up the playing field. Sometimes it does this in a big way, sometimes a small–it’s never predictable. The worst is when your first unguided reveal is a mine. If you’re wondering, I’m a big corner guy, going for those first before seeing what I can open up in the middle of the grid.
Now to figure out what I’ll play next on my phone when I got ten minutes to kill. Or maybe I’ll just sit in silence, contemplating the meaning of life. Or the meaning of phone games. Yeah, one of those.