Indie Game of the Week 99: Minit

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Posted by mento (4159 posts) -
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In my experience with these games, Indies tend to start one of two ways: working from something big, like the many AAA genres that have since fallen out of vogue, and shrinking it down to something bite-sized and manageable for a small team; or the opposite, where you have the smallest kernel of an idea - usually borne from game jams or a proof-of-concept demo after futzing around with game maker software - and are capable of extending it outwards just enough to make it a commercially viable product. Minit definitely feels like the latter: a game in which the player only has a minute to live, but their progress is always saved after each "death".

Minit feels inspired primarily by The Legend of Zelda - graphically it resembles the original NES game, albeit with monochrome graphics, and Majora's Mask in the sense of its time-looping mechanic - but its structure is more akin to an adventure-puzzle game. You can wander around the map with your limited time, making mental notes of puzzles to be solved either with the objects at hand or some other item you yet lack, and while each demise restarts you at your house, you can eventually find other homes and restart further afield. The world is small enough that you won't waste your entire minute getting to any one corner of it and shortcuts are plentiful, so a lot of how far you get depends on the mental map you're forming in your head and where new item discoveries can be applied to progress in any number of areas. There's a specific main quest objective in mind - this minute-long existence is due to a cursed sword you're eager to be rid of - but lots of smaller ones pop up along the way, like finding the wayward guests of a remote hotel or solving the mystery behind a hyper-convenient teleporter system that links most of your homes-away-from-home together.

A typical cycle in Minit could start with you at your home, choosing to wander north a few screens, observing a puzzle that involves pushing boxes around to reach an item, realizing that the item you just found could be used south of your starting location to make progress, and then either heading down there for a preliminary look or hitting the restart button to kill yourself and begin over in your home with a full minute on the timer. You acquire a lot of Zelda-style traversal-enabling items like flippers and a means to chop down trees, and as soon as they're in your possession you start thinking back to where you saw a river you couldn't cross or a copse blocking your path.

This guy talks v e r y s l o w l y so you have to decide whether it's worth spending your limited time hearing what he has to say.
This guy talks v e r y s l o w l y so you have to decide whether it's worth spending your limited time hearing what he has to say.

To explain much more than that would be to take away some of Minit's strengths as a puzzle game, including what you can find and where it eventually goes. The minimalist two-tone look - which I think is also meant to invoke Atari's Adventure a little bit, especially given the duck-billed protagonist - is still fairly striking, and despite the lo-fi nature does some neat things with dithering lighting effects and incidental environmental animations. The music's catchy in that chiptune way - the local bar has a jukebox that cycles through a lot of tracks I don't think I heard elsewhere in the game - and the occasional bits of dialogue, though they might slow you down to read them, can be sharp and witty. Beyond all that, I think what can best be said about Minit is that it takes a concept with just enough legs to support a whole game and the developers do the maximum they could with it. It's a compact, cute, and clever game that's worth the couple of hours it asks from you.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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