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Of Mice and Sand: The Most Hidden of Possibly Hidden Gems, and Why That’s Worrying

An open secret among gaming journalists is how frustrating and rewarding the ‘hunt’ for a game’s PR ‘contact’ can be. Big companies like Ubisoft and Capcom implement press ‘portals’ that are often frustrating or confusing – seeking to limit person-to-person contact. Indies, mobiles, and mid-tier are easier, as developers often take a hands-on roll regarding the press regarding their game.

Especially indies. The most rewarding experiences your humble author has had in the world of games writing is interacting with the developers of the No Man’s Sky-alike ‘Morphite’, and through my now…nearly two decade long possibly obsessive relationship with indie wrestling game developer Mat Dickie.

So, when the charming ‘Of Mice and Sand: Revised’ popped up on the ‘coming soon’ tab of the Switch eShop, I did what gaming journalists do, and took to the Internet to find a press contact…and couldn’t. I did learn ‘Of Mice and Sand’ was previously released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop…And that’s about where the coverage stops. There’s a single review – giving it a one “M’ out of five. There’s a reddit thread for the 3DS version that seems mostly positive. Then it’s mostly a wasteland of landing pages, game indexes, and…that’s about it.

Finally, there’s this review…which came out two days ago:

Weird.

It doesn’t help that the release date has been jerked around. Regardless, Of Mice and Sand appears to be what would happen if The Secret of NIMH, This War of Mine, and The Oregon Trail had a baby. You control a roving tank filled with Mice, and need to build out the structure, train your mice, explore, fight, and survive. I think. The YouTube review above, from TOMMYBOY601 is glowingly positive – he describes the game as addictive.

So the fact that there’s little coverage of the game is pretty concerning, and could speak to just about the most glaring problem facing Nintendo’s eShop: An Embarrassment of Indie Riches. There are innumerable indie gems hitting the Nintendo Switch at breakneck speed: Golf Story, Steamworld Dig, SteamWorld Heist, and more – all of which seem to be having great success so far. The Iconic Super Meat Boy sold as many copies on the Switch day one as it did the first day it launched on XBLA. The ‘Nindie’ economy is strong.

But it’s also an ocean that’s growing wider and deeper and games will eventually drown in it if Nintendo’s not careful. There’s no rating system to sort out the good from the bad, and seeing a game like Of Mice and Sand, which seems to check all the ‘Nindie Darling’ boxes (cute, unique, silly), arrive to such little fanfare, could speak to this problem. Sure, as the game is released and played, comments will roll in, as will reviews and (hopefully) more coverage. But the game has (allegedly) been out since January 11th, and so far, there’s only the review above – and next-to-nothing regarding the 3DS eShop version – and generally speaking a ‘first week’ buzz is paramount to a game’s success.

Worse, it was like pulling teeth to find a proper PR contact – Circle Entertainment is listed on some sites as the developer and go-to contact point. They were not. The usual suspects of PR companies yielded no results – but for the grace of Goombah did a press release find its way, my way, with proper contact information.

This may sound like a gaming guy complaining he wasn’t able to get a game he wanted to review early, and in a way…it is. But in another way, it feels like a missed opportunity because if you’re a Nintendo Switch owner there’s a palpable joy and hunger and excitement for new, unique, experiences on the platform, and Of Mice and Sand appears to be just that. The lack of information, coverage, and reviews, even a few days after release, is problematic for just about everyone involved. In a few days or weeks, the game will be gone from the Switch ‘new releases’ hub and will be lost to the nethers unless someone deliberately searches on it, or a genre keyword that brings it up.

Thus, consider this a cautious exploration of what appears to be a relatively charming game that’s flying way, way under the radar…which is something Nintendo Switch games don’t really do…yet, but will soon. More and more quality games are coming to the system every week, and that’s 100 percent an amazing thing, but if it becomes hard or nearly impossible to discover those games after release, a hidden gem might just turn out to be a lost one.

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