Getting people to work together is difficult. Getting people who don't know each other to work together is very difficult. Getting people who don't know each other to work together over the internet is nearly impossible. Enter Transformice
is elegantly simple in its premise. A number of mice, usually 25, have to get some cheese and take it to their hole. In their way are a number of obstacles, gaps, pits, bombs and, unfortunately, each other. Every mouse is controlled by a player, and one player gets to be the shaman, who can conjure various bits of apparatus to help the mice in their quest.
The game strikes a fine balance between teamwork and competition - the mice get more points the faster they get the cheese to their hole but they often need to wait for their shaman to construct them a path. The points are important as whoever has the most points at the end of a round becomes the shaman for the next round.
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The shaman then gets busted down to zero points after his round but he does regain a point for every mice rescued during his turn as shaman. It’s a neat mechanic that means everyone gets a chance at playing the shaman while the shaman player is encouraged to do their best to help the other players. Games are usually two minutes in length, meaning progress is swift and there's a minimum of waiting if a shaman absent-mindedly wanders off a ledge.
seems to create a different memorable moment each time I play. The dynamic between the need to work together while remaining competitive means players often jump the gun, running across only a half made bridge in an effort to be first back with their cheese.
The efforts of rushed shamans can also be amusing. You only get two minutes after all, and it’s not uncommon for it to take 20 minutes or so before you get a chance at being the big man. A misplaced cannon ball from a panicking shaman can send half a game's population of mice flying across the screen to their death.
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The chat box at the bottom of the screen makes an ideal platform for recriminations when things do go wrong. Expect to see hundreds of different variations of the word 'fail' during any five minute period.
Things get extra interesting when, from time to time, there are two shamans, each with its own hole that the other is trying to block. It's playing as the shaman that makes the game interesting after all and it’s unfortunate that you only rarely get the chance. This means most players are unpractised as the shaman and while this can provide giggles when players get it wrong, it can be frustrating when you muck up your go. Maybe a practice shaman area could be provided; though arguably the game would lose much of its appeal if nobody made any mistakes as the shaman.
is a great way to kill a half hour or longer and if you're really into it you can create an account, buy various accoutrements for your rodent avatar and even level up. There is no overall goal as such, which makes putting it down easy enough but I can’t help but keep plugging away at it. I'm constantly telling myself that next time I play as the shaman I'll actually get it right and I am, invariably, disappointed.
Play Transformice online.