Browser game: Transformice

Jaz McDougall at

transformice 03

I've no idea why this is called Transformice. It should be called "A bunch of mice who are assholes." It goes like this: you're a mouse, and so is everyone else who's playing. You've all got to navigate to the cheese and take a piece back to the mouse hole, and the quicker you do that, the better your final score is. Your chief obstacle is physics - when fifteen mice are standing on a pivoting board, it's going to start tipping. When they're all laden with cheese and climbing over one another to avoid falling, it tips even farther. Soon, it's too steep to escape, and you're plummeting down into the pit. Luckily, at least one mouse has the power to summon objects and tether them to the world (or not). This 'Shaman' mouse is, in theory, your best bet for communal survival and overall cheese-maximisation for the entire mousey tribe.

In theory.

When you actually play Transformice (which requires a quick account sign-up) the Shaman is a cock, because the Shaman has godlike powers. You can summon an object with inherent lateral momentum - where I come from, we call those 'cannon balls'. You can summon a board with implicit rotational force - a noob-spanking rotor. You can summon a small, dense object shaped like an anvil, and it, you know, it's a really heavy anvil. All of these powers can be used for good - just like you can use your powers for good in KotOR 2 - but I didn't understand the pull of the dark side until I was a Shaman myself.

Most stages are obviously tricky puzzler-type set ups. You know, here's us, there's the cheese, but oh look in the middle there: a trap, a flipper, a big gap, a set of trampolines, invisible floors, falling bombs. Either a horde of mice will rush in and get killed, or a horde of mice will rush in and get killed in such a way that ruins anyone's chances of getting the cheese at all. The Shaman needs to be quick. When I was notified that I'd be up next, I started to panic. I was ready for the worst - a spinning plank with bomb falling on it, or an invisible barrier that'd funnel mice to their doom. When the map changed and I got my feathery hat, it was just a rope bridge stringing the mouse hole and the cheese together. "Huh," I typed. "What's the trick here?"

"It breaks."

[MPU]But our herd of fifty or so mice were being much more rational than they usually are. Half of them waited patiently for the other half to fetch the cheese. Then the first half went. Polite, orderly, efficient. Then it was just me, the Shaman, and a single mouse who was away from his keyboard or something. I charged across, grabbed the cheese, and came back to the mouse hole. A yellow status message informed me that I needed to help all the other mice to safety, cheese in hand, before I could exit the level myself. Then the little tyke ran off to the other end of the stage.

There was nothing I could do to help him - he was doing fine on his own. I looked at my tool kit, the handful of buttons that give me my godlike power. There's the box, there's the short plank, there's the spinning motor, there's the anvil. The last mouse was on his return journey now, cheese strapped to his back. I realised that I couldn't let my reign as Shaman end so uneventfully - I summoned the anvil. It hit the bridge. The bridge snapped. The mouse fell, and died in poof of little mousey bubbles at the bottom edge of the screen. Then I vanished into the mouse hole automatically. Why did I do that? I'm not sure. Was it fun? Yes. Did we win? Yes!

Sometimes there are two Shamans - a pink and a blue, each with their own colour mouse hole. The idea here is that they'll be competing to help you the most - leading  you to their exit and netting the bigger score. The reality is that they just fight, using all their dirty powers against one another. Sometimes there's an obvious skill gap and one will just spank the other into outer space. Sometimes they work together.

Chaos is the overriding force that governs this game. Rounds are quick, graphics are simple, and the majority of the mice are caught between the harsh, uncaring levels and the malicious, scheming Shamans. The cool part is that whenever you steal a piece of cheese, it adds it to your bank. You can spend the cheese on hats. I rest my case.

Account signup is very easy - just a username, password, and a password confirmation - and you'll be playing this for ages. Go!


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