Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to mine I go! Facing lava pools and angry beasts, hi ho, hi ho! Despite facing a whole lot of potential doom, the itty-bitty stars of Bonus Level's arcade Lemmings-esque iOS game Micro Miners sure are a cheery lot. They know there's gold (and silver, and coal, and diamonds, and more!) beneath them thar hills, and they're willing to risk everything to get it as long as you point the way. Across fast-paced underground levels filled with plunder and peril, draw paths leading them to ore and gems while keeping them away from other hazards. Armed with a few power-ups, relentless optimism, and a seriously quirky sense of humour, these guys may be small, but are no mere minor miners! Just be fast, since the screen is always moving, and there's nowhere to go but down.
As the benevolent hand of destiny, using your finger, draw to carve a path through dirt for your miners to follow. You can tap on the pickaxe icon to swap to build mode, which can let you create bridges and blockades of dirt, and tap again to flip back. Gems are optional bonuses, but all ore needs to be mined to checkmark completion before it scrolls off the screen or it counts as a miss, and three misses makes you lose the level. Though all you begin with are the white miners, who can nab silver and gold, eventually you'll have to simultaneously manage the black miners who can mine coal, and ne'er the two shall mix. You'll often be forced to dig criss-crossing paths to get your various miners where they belong, quickly flipping between dig and build modes to make sure they don't intermix, since a miner will die if it encounters a material it can't dig mine. They'll also die if they touch hazards or scroll off screen, and since you have a finite amount of the little dudes per level, it's in your best interest to keep them in check. Which is going to get very hard very fast, as the levels start getting more complex, with new materials and hazards, and demanding you dig and build on the fly.
Micro Miners is as demanding as it is funny and adorable, and it is seriously funny and adorable at times. The presentation is great, and the constant quirky chatter from your workers as you play helps alleviate the tension. I mean... not a lot, since the challenge ramps up pretty quickly. Even with the instructional videos that pop up to display different "techniques" as you go, getting the hang of leading your miners around can take some work. Since miners are constantly reversing course if they hit a wall, it can be intensely frustrating if they're all merrily hopping ledges back up towards the top of the screen when you need them to go down along your carefully laid out path. It takes a while to master everything, from how high a ledge is too high for a miner to reach, to expertly swapping two opposing teams on different sides of the screen. Though it will take some practice and nerves of steel, for fans of Lemmings-style arcade action, Micro Miners is easily worth the effort. A bizarre, frequently funny game that piles on more and more surprises the further you play to keep you engaged, and fits in your pocket to boot. What more could you ask for?
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad (First Generation). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.