Review – Inspector Mouse: The Great Escape

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Designer Markus Nikisch

Artist Valeska Schulz

Publisher HABA

Category Memory

Length 15 minutes

Release Date 2021

Inspector Mouse: The Great Escape is a memory game for kids. In it, players try to keep track of tokens on a rotating wheel, while only being able to see one token at a time. As more and more are added, one token will eventually fall out of the wheel, and players have to guess which one it was. Let’s check it out!

Review

In Inspector Mouse: The Great Escape, players are trying to stop criminals from staging a jailbreak! Like many HABA games, this one uses the box as a component. Inside the box base, players place a cardboard frame, on which a special “token wheel” assembly will sit. Also placed in the box base is a metal “alarm bell” piece, which looks a bit like the lid of a jelly jar.

The token wheel is essentially three cardboard tiles sandwiched together—a circle between two squares. They are held in place by the Inspector Mouse piece, who sits in the middle of the board and rotates the wheel. The wheel is designed such that one token is visible at a time, and as the wheel turns, tokens can fall unseen out of a hole at the back. When they fall, they land on the alarm bell, resulting in an actual, audible “ding” sound.

On a player’s turn, they begin by rolling the die. The result will show either a clockwise arrow, a counterclockwise arrow, or both (player’s choice). Then, the player rotates Inspector Mouse—and the wheel with him—in that direction until either:

  • an empty space comes into view, or 
  • players hear the “ding” of the alarm bell

If an empty space becomes visible, the player draws a random criminal token and places it on that space of the wheel. If the alarm sounds, someone is trying to escape! Players each secretly guess which character token fell down (i.e. which character was the farthest left or the farthest right on the wheel). Then, once everyone has made their guesses, players lift up the wheel to see who it was. Anyone who guessed correctly earns a point. If no one was correct, the criminal gets away and is moved to the getaway car.

The game continues until either:

  • the getaway car is full, in which case all players lose, or
  • the last criminal token is placed onto the wheel, in which case the player with the most points wins!

I have enjoyed all my plays of Inspector Mouse. Trying to remember who is at each end of an ever-changing line is trickier than you might think. Even as an adult, I found it challenging, but in an engaging way. Memory is a mechanism I rarely enjoy, but I like the way this game uses it.

The physical components of Inspector Mouse are very cool and original. Generally speaking, everything works well, but I have run into occasional issues with the wheel. Specifically, when players hear the alarm bell and make their guesses, they then lift up the wheel assembly to see who the escapee was. If the wheel gets jostled about in the process—a real possibility, especially if a kid is moving it—remaining criminal tokens can get bumped around or even fall out. This doesn’t happen often, so it’s not a huge issue, but it means that players need to take extra care when placing and removing the wheel assembly.

Small quibble aside, however, the components are all well made. In particular, I like that the topmost tile has little peepholes in it, through which players can glimpse criminals on the wheel besides the one in the visible window. It’s a nice touch, and it helps with the deductions.

Inspector Mouse is not likely to hold the attention of an all-adult game group, but it’s a great one to play with kids. In fact, it might be my favorite memory game out there! If you have children in the 4- to 8-year age range, check it out.

A review copy was provided by HABA.

The Bottom Line

Inspector Mouse is a fun game with a super cool central mechanism. Even though memory is not a genre I typically enjoy, this game uses it in a clever way. Recommended for kids and parents.

 

7

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.