Playing a mole on a mission to collect diamonds desperately makes me want to describe Miko Mole as a diamond in the rough. At best, only the “rough” part of that description applies. It’s not a terrible puzzle game by any means — but nor is it particularly good. It’s the kind of game you’ll play for a little while, then ultimately forget all about.
Miko’s life is a life full of exploring caves and trying to survive many different obstacles. He can dig his way through ‘light’ dirt to get to other tunnels, eventually picking up diamonds. The tricky part is twofold – the many obstacles in his wake, and Miko’s careless maneuvering. Yup, Miko isn’t subtle with what he can clear. The moment he touches some dirt, he clears a big chunk of it. That makes things speedy, but it also means you can’t be very careful with clearing such land. That can cause a problem later on.
Oftentimes Miko is trying to avoid bats and falling rocks (two of the main obstacles early on). Both can be outran to an extent, but what’s more useful is dislodging the boulders so that they fall on top of an unsuspecting bat. The trick here is subtly, and did I mention that Miko isn’t very subtle with his clearances? That’s the core issue. You gradually learn how to adjust to such problems, along with the fact that the mole can be a bit sluggish to move around. The fact you have to learn to adjust isn’t really fair though. It means Miko Mole isn’t as intuitive as it should be.
As you progress more challenges emerge, such as darkened and underwater stages, along with convenient gadgets like a headlamp to illuminate the way. There’s also the stealth style levels that introduce cameras that must be avoided at all costs. Soon enough, you can pick up rocks, moving them to drop on top of bats to hopefully kill them.
Miko Mole is reasonably good at providing variety, but it never makes up for those awkward controls. Such issues are further heightened by other design choices. The AI is seemingly random, meaning you can’t accurately predict where a bat is going to roam next. That removes the satisfying challenge of stealth-based exploration, and can make the experience rather frustrating. That frustration is enhanced when you bear in mind that everything is timed, encouraging you to progress faster than is necessarily wise. It’s not so much an issue early on, but it soon grates as you continue playing.
Something else that grates is the soundtrack that loops far too quickly, and doesn’t really fit into the aesthetics of the game. While that’s a relatively minor issue, it still adds up in a game that’s already lacking in ‘wow’ factor.
Ultimately, while Miko Mole might provide a reasonably pleasant distraction early on, it’s too rudimentary to really lure you in for long enough. There are some occasionally nice (if tried and tested) ideas in there, but it never overcomes the control issues that plague it early on. It all feels so near, and yet so far.