I’ve been loving the 3D platforming goodness that has hit the Nintendo Switch as of late, with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury the most recent release to absorb hours upon hours of my time on the platform. It was a blast to play through and even after collecting all the green stars and cat shines, I wanted more colourful platforming adventures. Well, it might not star an Italian plumber, but Mail Mole certainly does a good job of scratching that 3D platforming itch. Whilst the indie release doesn’t necessarily have the polish or originality of Nintendo’s latest adventure, it offers a vibrant and charming escapade that’ll keep a smile on the faces of fans of the genre.
Mail Mole puts players in the role of Molty, a mail-delivering mole (the clue is in the name really) that heads out on an adventure to protect his home of Carrotland from some dastardly invaders and help restore power across the land. This means adventuring across an array of varied worlds, completing platforming challenges, and collecting a ton of carrots along the way. There’s a twist to his journey though: whilst most platformers see you running and jumping overground, Molty embraces his burrowing abilities to DIG his way through levels.
It might seem an unconventional means of traversal in a platformer, but it works really well in Mail Mole. It also affects Molty’s manoeuvrability, with players having to charge the jumps they make back overground by holding down the jump button as they move – the longer you hold it down, the further and higher Molty will jump. Are you used to just mashing the jump button to leap places in your platformers? You’ll have to re-think your approach in Mail Mole.
It adds a level of precision and forward-thinking to the game where you can’t rely on simply lining up quick jumps but have to prepare yourself by holding down the jump button ahead of time. There have been plenty of times in 3D platformers where I’ve barely survived by pulling off a quick jump in the nick of time, but you don’t necessarily have that amount of leeway in Mail Mole. Whilst that might sound intimidating, the clever level design ensures that you’ll never be at odds with the system; in fact, the game is actually pretty easy to get through, with most platforming challenges simple enough to overcome with a bit of forward-thinking. Sure, the collectibles will demand a bit more platforming finesse, but completing the game shouldn’t be too difficult for most players.
Outside of the digging and jumping, there’s not a whole lot to Mail Mole that necessarily feels original. The platforming challenges you’ll come across have been done plenty of times before in other games over the years, with things like swinging hazards, disappearing platforms, rolling platforms, and speedy vertical-style levels showing their familiar faces. This isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination and the level design is solid throughout, but it could feel a little lacking in originality.
There’s no denying that it’s a lot of fun to play though, whilst the boss encounters against the villainous turtle pirate foe (who does look a lot like Bowser if you squint a little) add a spark of variety along the way. It’s competent at everything that it tries to do as a 3D platformer, whilst the neat digging and jumping mechanic adds a unique hook – even IF you would have seen everything else that it tries to do a million times before. It’s just enjoyable throughout and offers enough to keep both youngsters and platforming-loving gaming veterans entertained.
Presentation-wise, Mail Mole looks cutesy enough, though the worlds themselves did feel a bit lacking. Don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly pretty in design and there’s plenty of variety across them, but they felt very by the numbers as far as platformers are concerned. There wasn’t a single area which had me thinking, “I haven’t seen something like that in a platformer before!”, though that’s a theme that’s consistent across the entire game really. It was a bit weird to be playing as a burrowing pile of dirt for the most part too, especially since there’s an emphasis placed on customising Molty’s appearance.
Massive kudos to the game for running so smoothly though, with a consistent 60fps frame rate found across both the Nintendo Switch’s docked and handheld modes. Mail Mole might not be packed to the brim with sparkling visuals or unique sights, but the action is slick throughout and it really helps make the platforming antics all the more fun.
Mail Mole might not necessarily win any awards for originality, but it still offers a fun platforming escapade that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy. It absolutely nails all of the basics throughout and even introduces its own ideas with the digging and jumping, whilst the 60fps frame rate keeps the action feeling silky smooth too.
The presentation could be a little underwhelming and you won’t see anything that you haven’t seen before in similar titles in the genre, but it doesn’t stop Mail Mole from being an entertaining 3D platformer overall.
Developer: Talpa Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC