The golden era of platformers for me is still currently the PS2 era. It was when 3D platforming really worked and wasn’t overly complicated. It also was the time when an A or AA title could do things differently. In a similar vein Mail Mole tries to be different with its 3D platform adventure experience. It is a largely successful and decent casual game for younger players and those that yearn for PS2 simplicity.
There are a few design decisions to get out of the way first though. Mail Mole is barely on screen. He is travelling underground and so all you see is a dirty bubble of where you roughly are. This means unless you are jumping – Mail Mole is non-existent. It is a strange decision that means you don’t connect with him as a character and all your costume changes are barely seen. It also has a gameplay knock on too as late in the game, you need to be precise. How can you be precise with your movements when you can’t really see where you are? This issue only crops up briefly at the end but you’ll lose a few lives and carrots because you’ve misjudged where you think you are. It isn’t your fault and it’s the sole downside to the game.
With that out the way, we can get onto the good stuff. Mail Mole is colourful, lo-poly and simple to pick up and play. Each level asks you to just reach the end. You don’t have enemies to kill, although you’ll need to avoid tons of spiky traps, water, mud and fire. Instead, Mail Mole wants you to jump from dirt platform to platform, boost around to break crates and time jump smashes to bounce higher or further. Every level is a maze of carrot collecting, finding 3 hidden radishes for bonuses and reaching the exit. There are 28 stages across seven worlds and each world adds a new type of trap to avoid. A temple adds rolling platforms. A beach adds bouncy floats and spinning nets. The ghost forest adds disappearing floors. It is simple but getting each stage perfect and fluid does require skill. It is entirely optional but time trial medals are the completionists bait. I didn’t have the patience and just enjoyed the platforming at my speed.
Boss levels are in addition to those stages and remind me of Coco, the PS2 platformers. They are circular stages with the boss in the centre and you have to negotiate traps to hit switches to beat them. The final boss is like a mega boss run and is vastly more difficult than anything else in the game. Be prepared to be annoyed and hit restart more than a few times as this is where that precision issue comes into play.
A nice addition to the game is that when you complete each world, you unlock race mode. This lets you race around one of the levels in the world against 3 AI opponents. I used this as a great way to learn the quickest combos to traverse a level when going for a gold medal in time trial. It also made me wonder why this wasn’t opened up as a multiplayer extra though. It’s a mild distraction but a welcome change of pace. Carrots are collectables used in the store for costumes. These are cosmetic only but make sure you always have some carrots in your possession. Every life lost costs you five carrots and whilst they are literally everywhere, you don’t want to be caught short.
Overall, Mail Mole is a light and happy platform adventure. Whilst the controls are fine, the lack of extra mole location does cause some mild annoyances late in the game. It reminds me of a good but not great PS2 licenced game. It’ll take you about three hours to complete but much longer to beat all the trials and collect the radishes if you want to. All in all a pleasant surprise.
Review code provided by publisher.
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