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Gaming Review

'Miner Disturbance' (iPhone)

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Released on Tuesday, Jun 8 2010

Gaming Review: Miner Disturbance

Also available on: PC
Developer: Jagex Games Studio
Publisher: Jagex Games Studio
Genre: Platformer

Mining may not be a common source of inspiration for videogame designers, but it has lent itself to the medium reasonably well in the past. Who can forget the legendary ZX Spectrum classic Manic Miner, or the challenging NES offering Digger T. Rock: Legend Of The Lost City? At the end of the day, there's just something gratifying about digging holes and blasting your way through layers of rock. With this in mind, Jagex Games Studio has ported its popular casual title Miner Disturbance to the iPhone... but has it unearthed a gem or dug itself into a hole?

Based on the phenomenal popularity of casual fare on Apple devices, bringing Minor Disturbance to the App Store was surely a no-brainer. However, those expecting a carbon copy of Jagex's Java-based online title will be in for a surprise. The iPhone iteration is a very different animal. While the core gameplay is similar, everything from the visuals to the level design has been shaken up.

For anyone wondering what the game consists of, the clue is in the title. There's a lot of digging involved, with platforming and some light puzzle elements for good measure. Guiding your miner through 25 stages, the aim is to unearth as many minerals and precious artefacts as you can. It's a simple premise befitting a casual game. While the core mechanics are equally straightforward, Miner Disturbance does offer a fair degree of variety and challenge once it gains momentum.

We start off with a map screen similar to the 2D Super Mario titles, displaying all of the mines you can pillage as well as a shop to purchase equipment and a museum where your unearthed artefacts are displayed. Each level sets you a number of tasks to complete and gives a rating based on how you fared. These include digging to a certain depth, collecting a specific amount of a mineral or dispatching a set number of enemies. Completion of these objectives yields money for equipment upgrades, and the range of tools on offer adds some strategy to the mix. For instance, when exploring a flooded mine you may wish to purchase an aqualung beforehand; but when a lava stage crops up you'll almost certainly want to exchange it for the fire-proof boots.

The control system is basic, yet reliable. A virtual d-pad moves the miner and a pair of action buttons are used for jumping and digging respectively. Platformers are a tough nut for development studios to crack on the iPhone, so it's a relief to find that the stick is responsive and the buttons reliable. With so little to initially take on board, you might be fooled into underestimating the game's learning curve. There's more to this one than just jumping and digging. It takes a little time to get to grips with the physics of the environment. Whether a mound of rock will crumble above you, or the direction a pool of water will drain once its support has been breached must be taken into account as you traverse each mine. Furthermore, taking down enemies requires a small degree of tactical thinking. Some foes can be dispatched with a belt from your shovel, while others can only be felled with a well-time rockslide.

While Miner Disturbance possesses the kind of addictive playability that any effective casual game should, some variety in the level design wouldn't have gone amiss. Granted, there is only so much that can be done with mine interiors but the blue and purple hues become tiresome after a while. Another issue relates to the level of difficulty. A lack of power-ups to restore your health makes the game's latter stages veer away from the realm of challenging into frustration territory. There are a few hours gameplay on offer, though much of that is spent replaying the same stages over and over. That said, the developers at least had the courtesy to include infinite lives.

Miner Disturbance is unlikely to satisfy the demands of the hardcore gaming fraternity but to expect it to do so is a little unfair. As far as Apps costing under one pound go, this is one of the better ones. Addictive gameplay coupled with solid controls gives this one the kind of retro charm that mobile gamers can't get enough of. That said, it’s hard to imagine the game commanding a long-term slot on iPhone owners' handsets with the sheer volume of new titles appearing on Apple's online storefront every week.


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