1990 Silicon Dreams Games and Movie Reviews: Minesweeper Review and Strategy (on a dare)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Minesweeper Review and Strategy (on a dare)

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(as requested by Foundie)

If you started gaming in the 90s chances are Minesweeper is the first game you got with your brand spanking new Pentium 2 or 3, alongside the standard Windows 95/98 package. If you were like me and didn't have an Internet connection you've probably spent a good few months playing it. That and a few other puzzle games like Breakout or Pinball, or anything I could scrape off the CD that came with PC magazines. 

The premise of Minsweeper is a simple one. You have a board with a number of square tiles and beneath each tile is either a number between one and eight, a blank space or a mine. You click on the tiles either to open them or mark them with a flag which signifies a mine. In addition the blank tiles are usually clustered in groups and if you land on one it will open up all the other blank tiles connected to it, as well as the number tiles that border it (this is important because it provides the beginning of your strategy). If you land on a number tile, that's when the game really starts. The numbers signify the number of mines next to that tile in all four directions and diagonally. If you land on a mine tile the game is over. 

When I started playing I didn't have anyone explain to me what to do, but I quickly figured it out. There's three difficulties and each one presents a larger playing field, so starting with the first one will generally give you a lot of blank tiles and once you open those up it's easy to figure out the rest. 

The main strategy of Minesweeper is to open up a field of blank tiles by clicking randomly and then look for a Number One tile that borders a corner. Naturally if it's a one-tile and all the tiles next to it are open except for one that's where you'll have your mine. So right-click to mark it with a flag and continue onwards. If you have a flag and a one-tile next to it naturally all the other tiles around that tile are safe. Two-tiles work pretty much the same way. Look for a two-tile that borders an edge, if all it's neighbours are open except for two, or if one is closed but the other one is flagged, you know where your mines are. In the same way if a tile has the number eight all of its neighbour tiles are mines. Meanwhile as you're clicking away landing on blank tiles will help you out by opening up additional possibilities to eventually find all the mines on the playing field.

So the first two difficulties of the game are pretty straight forward and you can have some fun trying to beat your best time, but the real deal is the Hard difficulty. The game board is absolutely huge and with no tolerance for mistakes (you have to start over every time you land on a mine) it's going to take you some time to beat it. Very few people I know have actually beaten it and the first time I did I was absolutely thrilled. What makes this one so difficult is that chances are with a field as big as this, you're going to end up in a situation where you simply have to guess which of two or three tiles is a mine. There will be no way of logically telling them apart, and you may be lucky but chances are you won't be (sometimes you may have to guess two or three times). There's a way around this, though. The most important thing to remember when playing Minesweeper on Hard is Always start with opening all four corner tiles. The narrow areas around the corners are exactly the place where the limit of only two directions from where you can attack with the help of the number tiles, results in having to guess on a tile. So take that extra time and blow some mines up until you end up with a game where all four corner tiles are open. Get some practice and you'll be beating Hard difficulty Minesweeper in no time. Then you can brag to your friends, your spouse, or your boss about it and watch them despair over trying to complete even the simplest levels.

With Windows Vista and Windows 7 came a graphically updated Minesweeper, its main disadvantage being the annoying sound every time you open a tile and the lack of the yellow smiley face man from the original Win 95/98. Still the old-school fans of the game can probably find the classic version on-line under Java.


  1. You know, I have never really learned how to play that game, but i have a cousin who plays it flawlessly. Just seems so interesting.

  2. I love minesweeper. The best thing about the new version is that there is never a mine on the first tile.

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