Like many of the best casual games for iOS, Super Mole Escape is a play-till-you-die type of experience. You control a mole prisoner who decides to start digging to escape from jail. It’s anyone’s guess why a jail for moles is made with dirt floors, but at least it makes for a fun game.
A meandering dirt path offers the least resistance to your digging, so your job is to tilt your device to keep the mole on the path and away from the pursuing policeman. As you dig, you collect multi-colored gems that you can spend on upgrades and power-ups between levels. Nabbing a whole string of gems also gives you a speed boost, which comes in handy any time the police officer comes near you.
I ain’t saying she’s a gem digger.
All sorts of obstacles wait for you underground, from hard rocks that slow your progress to angry animals looking for a scuffle. The environments change randomly, so you’ll come across hot areas with pockets of magma and cold areas with spinning ice beams. It’s not exactly realistic, but the cartoony graphics and goofy gameplay pull it all together nicely.
But not everything underground is out to get you. You’ll also come across big gems worth lots of points, and crates that grant you a random power-up, like the cubes in Mario Kart. The power-ups are things like bombs you can drop for your pursuer, hammers to break rocks, and missiles to shoot at enemies in your way. The power-ups are plentiful, and using them often means the difference between life and death.
The game draws a lot of inspiration from Jetpack Joyride, but puts enough of a spin on it that doesn’t feel derivative. At any given time, you have three achievements to earn for doing things like smashing 20 rocks or digging 500 feet without getting hit. Completing an achievement puts another one in its place and gives you a few extra gems. Also, when you get busted by the cops, as you inevitably will, you spin a wheel of prizes that can give you additional coins or a starting power-up for your next run.
You said you’ve got a T-rex?
And since every game is better with RPG elements, you can spend your gems to upgrade the stats on each of the mole prisoners. You can make them faster, stronger, quicker to accelerate, or make one of the power-ups more useful for them. Most of the playable characters are locked at the start of the game, so you have to spend gems to unlock them, or to swap out their prison stripes for new duds.
There’s even a Game Center-based multiplayer mode that puts you in a match in real time against either a friend or a random opponent. This adds an exciting bit of competition to the game, and is a step beyond what most casual games offer. However, finding a match can take a minute or two, depending on how many competitors are online. We also have to say we’re disappointed by the generic, repetitive, annoying music that plays in the background every second you spend in the app.
Super Mole Escape is a casual game that succeeds on just about every level. It doesn’t offer the deepest gameplay experience, but if you have a few minutes to kill here and there, this is a great way to spend them. What more can you ask from a casual game?