If Phil Connors died every 60 seconds, only to wake up again the next day to the sounds of Sonny & Cher blaring on the radio, Groundhog Day wouldn’t be a very good movie. But Minit does just that, minus the “I’ve got you babe’s” and the self-improvement plotline and it manages to be a refreshing, if short, addition to the adventure game roster. From publisher Devolver Digital, and developed by Jan Willem Nijman, Kitty Calis, Jukio Kallio and Dominik Johann, Minit puts you in the unfortunate shoes of a duck billed adventurer, who happens upon a cursed sword that kills him every 60 seconds. Players must navigate Minit’s stark, monochromatic landscape, searching for the factory that is producing these swords en masse in hopes of shutting them down, lest any more of the whimsical denizens of the world fall prey to its sinister magic.
I will admit, the 60 second gimmick had me balking at first. I didn’t understand how a game with such a rigid time constraint could be fun, and instead went into it assuming (I know, I know… what an ass, right?) that I would end up frustrated and disappointed. This was even despite the fact that one of my favorite games of all time, Majora’s Mask, was also based around a similar time-looping, change the past to fix the future mechanic, because I (arbitrarily) figured that three days was an acceptable time limit. I mean, what can you get done in a minute?
A lot, apparently.
I write this review a humbler person, now knowing that Minit is fully aware of how short those precious 60 second intervals are and has taken steps to ensure that the “I live, I die, I live again” cycle stays novel. My first concern was addressed right from the get go, in that certain things you change and goals you reach persist past your death. This isn’t your traditional Groundhog Day rotation after all, since instead of falling asleep at the end of the day, you die when the clock hits zero. Sure, the crabs you kill respawn and the boxes you moved move back, but any progress you made in the actual story line of the game stays progressed. This removes one major stressor and introduces immediately that the purpose of the time constraint in Minit isn’t to punish its players, but to add a new dimension to the puzzle solving aspect of your traditional adventure title, in the same way A Link Between Worlds allowed you to merge with your surroundings.
My second concern was addressed soon after this discovery, when I made my way to the desert and discovered an abandoned campsite. I entered the trailer with a measly ten seconds to spare, the clock ticking down louder and my poor adventurer starting to sweat in anticipation of his very timely death, when I was notified that my home base had changed. I then died and respawned in the trailer, closer to the area I needed to explore and no longer on the fringes of my time limit. Minit employs multiple checkpoints just like this one throughout the world which are integral to your progress, making it clear to players that each section of the map is its own microcosm of puzzles, narrowing the scope of the game and making it more manageable.
Its also worth noting that Minit never tells you more than you need to know. If you receive a coffee cup that lets you push around heavy objects, a line of text will appear on screen until you use that skill for the first time but even then, there’s no explanation as to how to use it or where or why. When you find the sword and discover it’s cursed, a helpful delivery man tells you to go to the factory and complain to management, and that’s it. You need to find out where that is, how to reach it and what to do once you’ve arrived. This is a game that doesn’t hold your hand, but neither does it leave you in the lurch. There were only a handful of times in which I got stuck, and that was either due to not having explored previous areas thoroughly enough or my own lack of focus, not any fault in the game. Minit seems to pride itself on just how accessible it is, despite the aforementioned time constraint, and its difficulty really boils down to how quickly you can get into the rhythm of dying, respawning and memorizing the map.
Minit is not a long game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it feels just long enough to afford players the chance to explore and enjoy the core mechanics of the game without them growing stale. While there are a few puzzles that are built specifically with the 60 second time limit in mind, after the midway point they start to taper off, and thankfully the game finds a satisfying end before the schtick gets old. One particular moment, which was honestly so cute and clever it sold me on the game almost immediately, starts with an old man by a lighthouse and relies on the time constraint as not only a function of the game itself, but as an intrinsic piece of the puzzle you are trying to solve. I won’t go into detail for those of you who haven’t played the game, but it takes the hectic pacing inspired by the ticking clock and turns it on its head, forcing players to really take into account how time functions as a mechanic to be utilized within Minit in a really funny way.
That being said, for $10 US ($13 Canadian) it feels really short. This may benefit the story, and it definitely saves the game from feeling like a kitschy one-trick pony, but there is little if any replay value in exchange for the price tag. I got most of the secrets and power-ups on my first play through (a benefit of getting lost and wandering through puzzles only tangential to the main storyline), and I still spent at most two hours in game. There is a new game plus option upon completion, and you can go back and play through your old save if you feel you missed something, but to be honest, I didn’t want to. I felt that I got the most I was going to get from Minit the first time around, which is not a detriment to the game in itself. I do feel that for $13 I expect a little more meat on a video games bones, and since Minit would only be doing itself a disservice by extending its amount of gameplay, I feel the price could better reflect what you get out of the finished product as a whole. However, I also understand that people gotta eat and if $13 helps to create inspired little puzzlers like this one, that’s money even the cold-hearted miser in me can be convinced to part with.
In early Zelda-esque fashion, Minit boasts an endearing blend of “get the sword, go on the quest, slay the villain” adventure game with a cast of quirky characters very reminiscent of Undertale. From the security guard who wishes he could be a photographer, to the dude in the pub who wants to listen to “real” music (and we all know that guy) the NPC’s strewn throughout the world are charming and likeable, making it fun to explore and inspiring a desire to speak with everyone you meet. The plot is simple, short and sweet, with nothing more going on behind the scenes than necessary and when you finally come to the end of the game, it feels satisfying. You accomplished what you set out to do, and the rest is non-obligatory completion material: there if you want it, but nothing you need to bother with if you don’t.
The art style is simple black and white, with objects and characters a stark relief on a black screen, almost as if Space Invaders and Pokémon Red/Blue had a baby. Seemingly mirroring the minimalism that strikes through the heart of the game, players are left to decide for themselves how to interpret the cartoonish world of Minit in the same way we were left to our own devices on our first foray into Hyrule. Simple does not equal boring, does not imply laziness or a lack of substance, and coupled with how polished the game feels as a whole (due in part to the impressive group of developers at its helm, I’m sure), Minit stands as an example of what can be accomplished when a neat idea and a keen attention to detail run head first into each other.
Minit is available now across the board on PC, Xbox One and PS4, and I would recommend anyone (specifically those of you interested in game design) check it out. It’s a quick game that’s fun and interesting, casual enough that you can knock it out in a few hours with minimal difficulty and illustrates that a game doesn’t have to be all flash and pizazz to make an impression. Sometimes all you need is a hook and the means to apply it, letting the mechanics make up the substance, bells and whistles be damned.