What do you mean “you used up all of your allowable puns in that headline”? Developer Thomas Young gets to make two whole games full of dad jokes and I only get those two words? Sigh, fine. Let’s talk about that developer’s latest game, Molecano (Free), and let’s do it while leaving the groan-worthy word play at the door. Well, not all of the word play. Wouldn’t be able to talk much about this game without discussing that. Oh no, I did it again. Alright, on to the body of the review before I get my bosses any more steamed than they already are.
I’m quietly a bit of a fan of Thomas Young. Somehow I didn’t really play any of his games until they came to the Switch, but once I had my first taste I knew I had a new developer to follow. The Super Fowlst games are tricky in all the right ways. The Dadish Quadrilogy (IT’S A WORD!) are rad, cute, and funny platformers that can get devilishly challenging, especially Daily Dadish. This fellow makes some cheerful little action games that can make you want to yank your hair out. I guess that’s his deal. But wait, what’s this? His next game isn’t an action game at all? It’s a word game?
In hindsight, we should have seen it coming. Those end of level gags in Dadish demonstrate that this fellow is something of a wordsmith. So here we are with Molecano. Good title. Simple, short, rolls off the tongue. Shows up well in a web search. Makes you want to ask what the deal is. What is the deal with that? A mole and a volcano, presumably? Why would they be bedfellows? I must find out. No, I am not trying to stretch things out because a word game doesn’t really have a ton to talk about. Maybe that’s what you’re doing, and you’re just projecting.
Projects! Let me tell you about a project. Molecano has over four hundred levels to play, and apparently more are on the way. I trust Thomas Young on that, he’s never been one for idle promises. But even if he never added anything else, four hundred stages is a whole lot of stuff to do. On each of those stages, you’re trying to get your cute mole (or whatever other character you’ve selected) to the foods scattered about. The problem is a classic one we all know too well: the floor is lava. You’ve got some letters down at the bottom of the screen, and they’ll work as well as anything for platforms. But this is a picky volcano, friends. It won’t allow platforms of nonsense. Those platforms have to be proper words. Spell them out, rotate as needed, and create some paths for our hungry hero.
You only use a set amount of words to solve each stage, though. You also have to connect your words, and Scrabble rules apply so you can’t overlap carelessly. Sometimes there are bits blocking longer words, and you have to use at least three letters on each word. You might have to first pick up keys sometimes to unlock other areas of the stage. The interesting hook here is that you really have to consider how long each word is because it’s not always a case where bigger is better. It really depends on the stage layout, where the foods and keys are, and how you want to reach all of that. That said, in the absence of any other factors, longer words are certainly more desirable. Those will earn you coins, and those coins can be exchanged to unlock new characters. Some will be familiar to fans of this developer’s previous works.
This is all wrapped in a very charming presentation, which is another hallmark of this developer. It’s cute, colorful, and you’d have to be a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon villain to hate how it looks and sounds. Even then, I think Skeletor goes for it. Shredder too. Mumm-Ra, probably not. He was always a bit of a curmudgeon. Cobra Commander yes, Serpentor who cares. Ridiculous usurper. The point is that this game’s mechanics aren’t particularly unique but the package they’re delivered in help the game stand out. Throw in the aforementioned bonkers amount of stages to clear, and it’s easy to see why this is worth the fantastic price of… free?
I just picked my monocle up off the floor and cleaned up the seltzer I spewed all over. Yes, Molecano is free. It will throw an ad at you now and then, and if you don’t like that you can pay a highly reasonable $5.99 to remove those ads forever. I think that’s a fair business proposition, so I’m not going to waste too many more column inches talking about it. Try the game out for free, and if you like it you can rest easy knowing it is certainly worth the six bucks to keep King Robert and Austin the Butler away.
I’ve always been a sucker for good word games, and Molecano is exactly that. You get a vibrant and frankly adorable presentation, an absurd number of stages to play, mechanics that are incredibly familiar but have that slight twist to make them feel fresh, and a monetization model that’s hard to argue with. If, like me, you enjoy flexing your vocabulary muscle (I think that’s called a brain, Shaun), then I strongly recommend helping this little mole get some chow post-haste. There, can I have my puns back?