There are many unlikely heroes in gaming. From Psychonauts’ Raz through to Portal’s Chell, many characters have taken up the mantle of protagonist when no other would. These people – and, often, not people – have faced impossible odds time and again, emerging victorious despite the natural challenges they face.
One animal that’s gone sorely under-represented in the world of video games is the humble mouse. This unlikeliest of heroes is plucky, courageous, and adept at sneaking in and out of tight spaces, which one would think might make them ideal video game heroes. Alas, few games have explored their potential as flagship characters.
Few games, that is, until now. Joining the vaunted ranks of games like Ghost of a Tale and Moss is Transformice Adventures, a cute little MMO-style game created by Atelier 801. If you don’t know, Atelier 801 is a French studio responsible for creating the frantic browser-based game Transformice.
It’s fitting that the company considered naming itself Mice Studio prior to settling on Atelier 801, because Transformice is a universe it clearly loves. The studio has worked to make Transformice Adventures available in your browser because it knows people love this property and love playing it without needing more cumbersome programs.
If you’re expecting something similar to the original Transformice, you might be disappointed by Transformice Adventures. If, however, you’re in the market for a calming MMO with some surprisingly deep combat mechanics and a sweet visual style, then step right up, for Transformice Adventures is your game.
Those who’ve played MMORPG games before will be familiar with the dynamics here. Players are deposited into a hub city from which they can take quests, change their character’s “job”, and socialize and interact with one another. The fact that players are anthropomorphic mice does little to change the basic idea of an MMO,
The job system is the crux around which the game is built, and it does a good job of easing players into its combat. If you know about MMO class systems, you’ll be familiar with jobs, although Transformice Adventures does a great job of making its classes feel distinct and interesting.
We tried out two classes during our time with the game: Chef and Botanist. Neither of these are classic jobs in an MMO, but Atelier 801 implements them flawlessly, creating an offbeat job system that genuinely feels like a breath of fresh air and a change from the standard mage-rogue-warrior triad.
The combat system into which these jobs neatly slot is a fairly standard hack-and-slash setup. You and three friends journey into dungeons and take out waves of bad guys for the chance to win some loot. At the end of the dungeon, there’s one significantly larger bad guy who drops significantly more impressive loot.
What’s different here is the nature of the loot. Rather than equipment – which Atelier 801 is keen to stress it’s not going to implement into the game – Transformice Adventures offers players the chance to earn buffs, which can be carried over to subsequent dungeons in exchange for difficulty increases.
This is a clever risk-reward way of letting players choose their own difficulty. Enemy encounters can get quite tricky in Transformice Adventures, so the idea of making these encounters even harder does balance nicely with the sense of achievement and power one gets from an increasing number of skills and buffs.
Elsewhere, Transformice Adventures feels like a stripped-back and much less competitive MMO, and that’s a good thing. Rather than stat-boosting equipment, players are encouraged to collect cosmetics that change their mouse’s appearance and nothing else. This system feels much more laid-back than traditional entries into this genre.
This is aided by a wonderfully quaint visual style that calls to mind musical adventure Figment. The art style here is beautiful, all painted vistas and atelier-style (appropriately enough) whimsical brushstrokes. Visually, the game is a treat, which is good because it can get a tad busy at times.
Everything in Transformice Adventures feels perfectly balanced. The skills all contribute something useful to combat, and it’s worth going into battles with a mixture of classes even though they don’t fit the standard tank-DPS-healer rotation. Difficulty is pitched just right, and rewards fit the effort expended in completing dungeons.
We’re given to understand that Atelier 801 plans to create new features and content for Transformice Adventures ahead of a full release later this year, and we’re fully on board for that. This is a game that feels like it’s only going upwards, and we’re going to be there when it does.
Transformice Adventures gets an easy recommendation. It’s not massively over-complicated like many MMORPGs tend to be, and its combat, while simple, is deep enough that players will get something different from it depending on their play style. Enjoy Transformice Adventures for what it is: a syrupy-sweet, super-enjoyable and addictive alternative to games that demand every second of your time.