So what is Minesweeper Genius? The obvious first guess would be to say it's Minesweeper. But in reality, that couldn't be further from the truth. But in that answer, I have to say that isn't a problem.
Minesweeper Genius is a ID@Xbox Puzzle game developed by MGaia and published my Blowfish Studios. It has you trying to guide an old janitor looking main character from the starting position to the exit without setting off the numerous mines on the board. Along the way, you'll have various special tiles to indicate more about the mine placement or have you jump and shift columns in the level.
So if the game has mines and is a puzzle, why isn't in Minesweeper? Well it's more like Picross. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Picross is a puzzle game that tasks you with drawing a picture with information about how many filled tiles are in each column and row. Usually this includes some grouping information such as there are 4 right next to each other and then there are also 3 right next to each. Minesweeper Genius only takes the first part of this and tells you how many mines are in each row and column.
With this information, we need to logically deduce what the safe path is to the exit. To do so, we can switch over to a "Flag Mode" which allows the player to place a flag indicating that you believe it is a mine. You can only place as many flags as there are mines in the level, so you can't accidentally over-tag the level. You don't have to use the flag mode and can technically try to guess your way to the exit, but you are limited to only 3 chances to get there. If you die 3 times, you need to restart the level. And this brings us to probably the best part of Minesweeper Genius (or worst if you're hoping for a really easy walkthrough for this game
Minesweeper Genius's levels are completely random - even in the story levels. While the size of a particular level and the overall theme (types of special tiles) of the level remain unchanged, the layout and number of mines can be widely different over multiple runs of a level. As such, you can't just memorize a particular layout and run the level in that fashion. This gives the game more of a need to learn and understand the mechanics and apply logic to find the exit.
So that's a lot of the setup for the game without much in terms of actually reviewing it's content. So how is Minesweeper Genius?
The game itself is competent. The levels are never impossible (although I frequently restarted levels to get a more favorable layout) and the controls are adequate. I will say switching between Flag and Move modes felt clunky/unresponsive at times and I definitely had a few occasions where I died on a level because I was in the wrong mode even though I thought I had switched. Switching between the worlds/level sets is made easy with a single button press so you can quickly find levels you might not have completed yet.
Over the course of my roughly 5 hours getting all of the achievements, I enjoyed the puzzles I was solving. It might feel repetitive at a certain point, but the special tiles on puzzles and some of the logical leaps you need to make based on these make each level set have some of it's own flavor. While I compare this game to Picross at the start, it also has a bit of a Sudoku feel to it. At some points, you'll make a deduction about the mine placement roughly to then be able to make more substantial thoughts about a different row/column that is near it. Those moments always give the feeling of out-thinking the game and are really the best part of the game.
But because of the procedural generation/randomness of the levels, this might be something people miss. I didn't find it to have been a bad thing, but when some layouts can be much easier or harder than each others (at least from my playtime), I can see less ardent puzzle game fans not getting the same enjoyment out of it.
Achievement wise, this game isn't terribly difficult. Most of the achievements can be completed just by slowing down and figuring out the placements. You'll have to complete all the Main Worlds (A through M) as well as the Advanced Worlds (C through M). The main worlds are 10 levels each while advanced have only 5. You need to collect all 3 stars from every level (which is based on not dying rather than how quickly you solve the puzzle).
To add a bit of difficulty to the achievements, there is a set for doing particular challenges in some levels:
1) Complete some levels while flagging all mines correctly and earning 3 stars
2) Complete some levels with no flags and earning 3 stars
3) Complete some levels without your main character falling asleep and earning 3 stars
The first two of these were fun. For the second condition, I pulled out pen and paper and found myself writing out a grid and blocking in the safe or dangerous tiles. This only became annoying when the level columns and rows rotated and then I had to write out the whole grid from scratch.
The third challenge really went against how I play these games. I prefer to work slow and methodical to place flags for everything. This challenge requires you to not idle your main character too long or he falls asleep. These aren't impossible challenges and the levels they occurred always felt a little more straightforward than others around them (possibly by design), but it's definitely a different play style requiring a bit of quicker thinking.
Overall, Minesweeper Genius is a fun, puzzle game. It didn't tickle my want for a new Minesweeper game (what I originally was hoping for), but it still hit the spot as a logic game. It's not too long, but the ability to randomly generate tons of puzzles means this game can realistically last dozens of hours and plays longer than just the achievements themselves.