Mail Mole: Fail? No!
Combining the psychotic tendencies of both the mole and the postal employee
Have you ever been playing Super Mario World and found yourself stifling a yawn, only to see Monty Mole burst out of the ground and cheekily run towards you, instantly lifting your mood? Yes, we all have, of course, and we’ve all thought the same thing – that we’d much rather be playing as that fun-loving chap, not a boring, dumpy plumber.
Of course, here in the UK, I’ve already had experience playing as Monty Mole in the likes of Auf Wiedersehen Monty and Impossamole (though I have a slightly mad idea that this one came out on the PC Engine), but that’s a different fellow to the Mario one. I assume. (Note to self: ask Shigsy)
What’s the point of any of this? Well, today I’m taking a little look at Mail Mole, a recent indie title that caught my eye with its Super Mario 3D World-lookin’ aesthetics, plus the fact that you play as a lovely mole. The usual stuff I’ve been going on about for years now, Nauties – moles, you know? I famously like playing as a mole. And here, in Mail Mole, I can.
There’s a bit of a focus on speedrunning here, as the Big Gimmick is that Oor Mullie digs under the ground as his main thing. This leads to a sort of vehicle-like feel of control as you propel forward through the earth, holding then releasing the jump button to leap upward and land back in the ground, quickly digging out of sight once again. Aw, he’s shy! The time attack element comes in with the fact that after landing from a jump, you can smash a button to quickly zip forward, much faster than usual, and these bursts of speed can be chained together and make you into the mole equivalent of a very, very fast thing indeed. And you’ll need to be to get the gold medal on each stage, an absolutely formidable challenge.
Its charmingly abstract in its level design – believe me, those Mario comparisons weren’t for nothing – but also refreshingly fast-paced and the levels flow very well. Plenty of variety, too, with many different types of challenge as well as fun boss stages that test your platforming skills rather than relying on rote repetition. Radical. The game also looks ace (in a sort of minimalist, low-polyish way) and runs at a very smooth 60fps even in the Switch’s handheld mode, which is quite remarkable. It’s out on other systems too, incidentally, but it feels at home on the Switch alongside the game that directly inspired it.
If I could fault anything here, it’d be the game’s initial learning curve, but that’s just a matter of applying yourself to figure out exactly how the movement works. In the beginning you’re likely to get frustrated by your failures to control the little mite, but there’s a rhyme and reason to the game’s physics and style. Also, sorry, made a mistake in that last sentence – the main character of this game is not a mite, he is a mole. Sorry.