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Minit (Switch) artwork

Minit (Switch) review

"A gimmick or not a gimmick. That is the question"

One minute. 60 seconds. Can you save the world in that time? I don't think I can even get out of my subdivision in one minute. But that is the task that awaits one man... or duck... or man/duck blob in Minit. 60 seconds to save the world. Or at least his own little portion of it. OK, fine, all he needs to do is get rid of a sword. Still, only 60 seconds. And Link thought 72 hours was too short...

Of course, it's not actually a 60 second game. Like Majora's Mask, we're in a time-loop, where you play it in 60 second intervals. The man-duck finds a cursed sword on the beach, which dooms him to die (and be reborn) every minute. So you end up respawning at your house once the minute is up (you also have the Bill Murray option to kill yourself to speed things along to the next cycle). Enemies reset, some NPCs reset, and half-finished puzzles reset. But your inventory remains, as does any event you completed. All to complete your goal of ridding yourself of a curse. But the time loop isn't the only comparison to Zelda, as you find yourself in an overhead view, swinging your sword, exploring the overworld and underworld, looking for heart containers and the like. Given the monochromatic visuals and 4:3 display, perhaps Link's Awakening is the best comparison.

Well, a crude version of Link's Awakening. Everything is in black and white, with very simple sprites. You can't even tell what, if anything, the main character (or most anyone else, for that matter) is supposed to be. The walking animation is very simple and feels floaty. And then once you can swim, it feels literally the exact same as walking; no different physics, no different speed, nothing. "Swinging" your sword is the simplest of animations, and no real animations from the bad guys either. There's virtually no AI, no complex exciting battles, very few major combat upgrades, no alternate weapons, or anything of the sort. There are plenty of NPCs, but they are all one-note characters existing to further the game along; no in-depth story or lore or anything of the sort. The game's pretty short too, probably taking no more than 2 hours to complete it.

In brief, other than the whole 60 second thing, this has all the hallmarks of a "My First Game Maker Game!" No story, no graphics, no exciting gameplay, little content, seemingly nothing to engage with at all. Can a game really rely solely on a silly gimmick like this? Shouldn't there be something else to redeem it?

Thankfully there is, and that's the exploration of the world itself. Forget Link's Awakening and go back to the original Zelda; this is all about being dropped into a strange, incomprehensible world and slowly uncovering its secrets. You aren't railroaded into the next plot objective at any point; you aren't railroaded into the plot at all! Someone will give you a hint of how to get rid of your curse, but that's about it. You just stumble around as best as you can, getting a feel for the world and remembering where the interesting stuff is. Some of this stuff you can interact with immediately, some of it you can't. The world isn't slowly uncovered; you can get to many different areas almost immediately. There isn't just one suspicious looking area you can explore at a time, there are 4 or 5. There may be a linear critical path a la most Zelda games, but it's definitely obscured by enough side content, false starts, and early access to some upgrades that you probably won't notice it while playing the first time.

That's the key. This game feels extremely open even if it does have gates and permanent upgrades and the like. The game's structure is very minimalistic: no tutorial, no helpful hints, no easing you into things. This means that you have no idea where to go, no idea what to do next. With absolutely no guides to point you on your way, all of your progression feels like natural accomplishments rather than you being deliberately led there. I'd give examples of how the game opens up and areas where you aren't sure if they're important or not, but it's better if you don't know. Go into this game blind; it's the best way to experience what Minit has to offer.

And what it offers is a very satisfying explorative feel. You roam around the world for a bit, just looking for things to interact with. Maybe you have time to fiddle around with one of them before your minute is up, but at the very least you know what you want to try working with during your next cycle. Maybe you can solve the puzzle or get past the obstacles in time on the next cycle, maybe you still need to use the next cycle to think things through. Either way, you will eventually get it. This gives you a new collectible, perhaps, but just as likely a new shortcut or a new item to progress. Maybe it'll be immediately useful, maybe it won't. But it's something that was accomplished during that cycle, and that's enough.

And there, finally, is where we see the 60 second timer fit in. By breaking down the exploration into such tiny, discrete chunks, it makes every little accomplishment all the more memorable and useful. In Zelda, you don't feel like you progressed at anything until you open up a new dungeon or finish a heart container or beat a minigame or whatever. But here, even seeing a new screen is a reward. Creating a new shortcut is huge, since it may give you more time per cycle to complete real tasks rather than merely walking. With the timer always counting down, you are constantly pushed to finish something in that time, get a tiny sliver of progress in. And with the semi-open progression system, where there are multiple tantalizing strings that pull you in different directions, each bit of progress is uncovering something truly unknown. Thus, you are chomping at the bit for that tiny sliver of progress. And here's the thing: you know, you are absolutely certain, that this tiny sliver is technically attainable in under a minute, even if you have know idea where it is, is plenty of incentive to go another round, go another minute. In other words, it's a perfect motivator to go out there and find it, to get just a little further.

So no, it is not a gimmick. This game is not an overly simplified cheap Zelda clone with a gimmick tossed on to make it unique. It is an incredibly inviting world, simple and small though it may be, that simply urges you to push forward into the unknown. The 60 second timer, rather than being frustrating or restricting, acts as a guide on your new adventure, letting you know that all these little baby steps you are taking is sufficient to get by, sufficient to get where you are going. Shrinking the reward structure of the game down into minute increments may not be feasible for all games, but it is why the small, simple nature of Minit works. Admittedly, that small simple nature may make you balk at the $10 price tag (I got it on sale), but the game itself is not something to complain about.


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Community review by mariner (May 14, 2019)

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hastypixels posted May 18, 2019:

I know it's not just me; I've been seeing Steam grade discounts on eShop games of late and there's no way I could complain about that. What I'm saying is that it opens doors for gamers who would not otherwise have a chance to enjoy a gem like this game on the Switch.

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