Five or six years ago, my parents forked out what to them was a small fortune on a PC that the sales assistant assured them came with all the top bells and whistles. Fast forward to the present day, and said PC still has pride of place in my folk's bedroom. It may take a little longer booting up these days and has more peculiarities than I can count on both my hands, but it's still used for the same basic tasks: my Dad checks his emails nightly and my Mum plays all the free mini-games tucked away in Windows.
It seems a little ridiculous with hindsight that my parents, lovely and naive as they are, spent a chunk of their savings so they could indulge in things that, these days, you can do on your average mobile phone. Nevertheless, it's the simplicity of these kinds of games that makes them perfect sideline entertainment, and far be it for the iPhone to ignore such a killer market. iBearMiner is such a game, an unofficial port of that Windows stalwart, Minesweeper. Here you find the exact same brand of gameplay, albeit with a slight aesthetic twist.
The game has you beating the clock to uncover mines hidden on a grid. Of course, you're aim is to mark these mines without detonating them. Doing so is a matter of uncovering squares on the grid to reveal how many mines are in literal touching distance, using said info to mark off where you think the suspected mines are. Just as in life, uncovering a mine results in an explosion that ends the game, presumably giving our mining bear a bit of a shock too.
The controls are pretty self explanatory: tapping on a square twice in quick succession reveals what's hiding underneath, with either the number of mines in the areas popping into view, or – lord forbid – an actual mine underneath exploding. The goal is to determine and mark off where you believe the explosive devices are hiding. Tapping once on a square places a flag to designate that space as a mine.
Sadly, marking squares off is accompanied by an especially grating sound effect, one only outdone by a two-second blast of random static noise that greets the start of each game. The latter is (presumably) an error that will surely be fixed in later updates, but there are aspects of the game that iBearSoft lets you change here and now. Coming with its own choice of difficulty settings, it's possible to alter play to suit your own tastes, giving you the option of changing the number of squares in the grid and the number of mines to be uncovered, so you can tailor your time to be as tough or as tame as you like.
iBearMiner also comes with an alternative 3D take on the game, applying the same Minesweeper formula to a shape comprised of multiple triangles. It's hard to deny the feeling that, even with this added mode, this is a clone without any frills. That's not necessarily a criticism, as it's unlikely anyone indulging in a five-minute blast on iBearMiner would lament the lack of a tagged-on plot or flashy graphics. Nevertheless, there is a case to suggest that this is a missed opportunity to add a more unique twist on what is already an established game.
Regardless, with only a few audio issues marring what is otherwise an accomplished stab at Minesweeper, any iPhone-owning fans would be hard pushed to find themselves regretting this purchase, even with the benefit of a few month's hindsight.