fkmines, minecurses, minefield and pynesweeper: Mine, all mine

At highest tide, my affection for minesweeper-style games still runs terribly shallow. I don’t dislike it as much as 2048, which I find pretentious and pseudo-intellectual, but the two are close competitors.

For some reason I have four text-only minesweeper variants to show, and I promise I don’t hold a grudge against the programmers at all, even if the game itself is completely unlikeable to me. For all I know, these could have been learning exercises, or even class assignments done under considerable duress.

I’ll tackle these like I have with other clumps of similar games in the past, and give you high and low points, along with my inexpert summary. In alphabetical order. …



Pros: Keeps to ASCII characters. Nice use of color. Can accept any variation on rows, columns and mines, and scrolls at edges. Status line. Offers to replay a game. Some vi-like controls. Timed. Cons: No documentation or help flags, except for the README file. Defaults to 10×10, instead of using entire screen. Some work is needed on conditions that end the game (sometimes just clearing out all the mines shows the game-winner status line, sometimes marking all the mines doesn’t trigger it).

Overall: Not a bad rendition. I particularly like that it’s willing to scroll in any direction if the map is bigger than the screen dimensions. I wish I didn’t have to hunt down the source package to learn the available flags, though. … 😐



Pros: Uses entire screen. Has a “fog of war” approach, keeping everything dark until you choose a cell. Nice inverted color scheme. Uses a “mine density” rather than a finite number of mines. Cons: No on-screen information, which makes you think at first start that the game is somehow broken. Cannot set minefiled dimensions. No arrow key movement. Cursor is difficult to see against “revealed” areas. Flagged mines are also difficult to see (blue on black).

Overall: I like this as a minor variation on the standard minesweeper “theme.” It would be nice to see a little more careful use of color, and perhaps more options for environmental control.



Pros: Good visual presentation and nice use of color. Offers “difficulty levels.” On-screen status and help. Counts down the number of bombs. Spaces out the minefield against the available screen space. Cons: Losing the game triggers a one-second screen that hurls a profanity at you (I’m not kidding), then flashes back to the CLI. No documentation aside from the two lines on the screen. No apparent way to adjust the screen dimensions or number of mines.

Overall: I hate to sound like a prude, but the closing screen of minefield is the dealbreaker for me. I have enough people hurling insults at me in real life without suffering a program that does the same. It’s a shame too, because minefield starts out very strong and otherwise does a decent job.



Pros: Uses basic ASCII characters for cell drawing. Arrow key navigation. Status line shows location, field dimensions and number of remaining bombs. Losing the game reveals all the remaining bombs, and allows you to restart. Cons: Appears to be locked at 20×20; no apparent way to adjust the size of the field or number of mines without editing the source files. No help aside from source comments. No color while playing. Occasionally a dense game board becomes difficult to read, because of the proximity of screen elements.

Overall: pynesweeper has potential but is a little crowded at the display. I need more help adjusting the field size and mine density than re-editing the source. Otherwise I like that it gives me a chance to double-check my logic when I lose, and uses color to make the readout easier.

I wouldn’t have thought it when I started out, but I feel fkmines is the best out of the bunch. I’m not so enthralled with anything here that I’m willing to put it up against cmines or freesweep, but that’s more a side effect of my relative disinterest in minesweeper games as a whole, than lack of enthusiasm for any one particular program.

In any case, one thing is clear: Minesweeper games for the console are in dire need of proper documentation. Only one of these had any sort of --help prompting, and that was exceedingly sparse. Only one or two had README-style tips, and one had nothing at all. It’s an epidemic of undocumented proportions. :\