In the spirit of other underground dig it up yourself games like I Dig It Explorations, Dig Dug, and California Gold Rush, Mole – Quest for the Terracore Gem by Roo Games brings a new entry into that genre. The game is perfectly designed for the iDevices and the developers have seemed to think of every detail to make your playing experience very enjoyable.
There is a very brief story line and basically you need to control Mark the mole in his digging device to find the infamous, but lost fabled Terracore Gem. Problem is, the Terracore gem is buried under 6 layers of the earth within the Terracore Level. When you first start the game, Mark will have very basic equipment in terms of oxygen level, drilling ability, radar, and explosives. So for your first few digs you will have to stick around the soil level collected gems and metal pieces, and if you are lucky, air bubbles to help make your dig longer.
You start with a limited supply of air and therefore must watch your meter before a rescue is needed. If you are rescued you lose whatever you collected that dig, so watch that air supply. Along the way you will be able to upgrade your equipment with the metal you find. As you pass through each level of the soil, you will find that each has their own unique problems to work around, for example, in the Rubbis level there are no air pockets.
Be on the lookout for the special drilling ship on each level of the soil. This will allow you to transport directly to that level of soil – for a fee of metal of course – without the use of oxygen. This comes in very handy as you travel deeper and each of your drill ships lines the surface ready for you voyages. Since using the benefits of these ships requires a fare of metal, you must decide if the benefits outweigh the cost, as the metal is what you will need for your upgrades.
Controls: The game is tap and go to its very core. Tap a spot and off Mark will go digging. Backtrack if you find gems or metal, but it’s quite easy to explore a level of the soil with this method. It allows for one handed play if that is what you wish and is quite responsive. This method of control is also very adaptable for left or right handed players, something missing in many games.
Random Level Generator: Pick a spot, any spot, dig there three times in a row and you won’t find the same gems or metal. Same with the mining ships. Spot one but run out of air and get transported to the surface, when you go back to find it, it will be in a different spot. So make the ships your priority because once you use them they will always be on the surface waiting to transport you. Miss it while you are digging in that level though and you will have to find it all over again. This random placement of metal and gems makes for high replay value and never will any dig be the same twice.
Load times: Seems like there is a loading screen for everything you need to do so there is a lot of waiting involved. The game oozes casual pick up and play for a minute but if during that minute you are merely awaiting the load screen to finish, it won’t be that game you want to play while waiting in line or during a spare moment. Luckily the game auto-saves the moment you exit so if you don’t have a chance to finish a dig, you can pick up where you left off the next time.
Balance of the upgrade shop: I like a challenge just as much as anyone else, but the upgrades seem very unbalanced from one level to the next. The first set of upgrades are fine enough, but they jump from around 15 pieces of metal to around 100-150 and then to around 1,000! Given that the transport drill ships also cost metal to use, you will either find your self digging in the first soil level a lot to gain some metal, or you will try to find the fabled gem without many upgrades. Each is not a great option and neither will allow you to accomplish your goal.
One map: Despite the randomly placed gems and metal, and the six levels you must get through, the one map gets old fast. Yes there is a lot to explore at each level, but with the current costs for equipment upgrades, it feels more like RPG grinding to get more metal than fun.
Mole – Quest for the Terracore Gem is a cute and casual pick up and play game. There are 10 medals to earn and 4 ranks to earn based on how much you collect, and it has a unique RPG upgrade system in the equipment shop. If you can ignore the slight flaws (none should be a deal breaker for fans of this genre) you will enjoy digging deeper to blast away the final goal of the Terracore Gem.
Special Note: Roo Games is running a promotion March 5th through the 14th called “Mole is free at GDC.” This is in anticipation of a “special announcement” to be made at GDC about new game play and content updates that are in the works for Mole. (per Chris Watts, Game Designer, Roo Games)