If there is a single concept in games design that most beginners need to understand if they want to have a successful career, it’s probably this: The Elevator Pitch. Now, I’m sure the vast majority of us have heard of it but just in case, The Elevator Pitch is this: You are in an elevator when your dream employer walks in, the ideal choice for who you would like to make your game. You have only the amount of time it takes for the elevator to take him to his destination to tell him about your fantastic game. So sell the idea to him with the shortest, best pitch you can make. Today’s game, Minit, has a doozy.
Minit is an action RPG where you live for only a minute at a time (geddit?). After picking up a cursed sword at the beginning of the game, you are stuck in a loop where every minute you will die and respawn at your home. You make progress by talking to characters, completing short quests and acquiring inventory items that allow you to progress down different paths. For example, an early pickup allows you to push around crates, meaning that certain routes that were at one point blocked can be accessible on subsequent runs.
Minit takes the tritone graphics of Downwell, the rapid iteration time of Hotline Miami and the focused and tight puzzle design of The Talos Principle
From this simple concept, a quite fascinating puzzle unfurls. The time limit is just long enough to allow you to make decent progress, but never long enough that you feel you can just idle around. It uses a Metroidvania approach to exploration, encouraging you to constantly return to previously explored areas in order to test new abilities. You will recall a path blocked off by trees that you couldn’t cut down earlier and immediately race back there the moment you find an item that allows you to take the trees down.
You are also capable of changing which home your character will respawn at, each of which provides you with a different radius that your character can operate within. Changing between these respawn points is never easy and will usually take most if not all of your allotted sixty seconds.
Combat is also wonderfully affected by the time limit. It comes off a little clunky (I experienced some confusion of which direction a sword will be swung in after a few button presses) but it is something you will try to avoid as much as possible. Time spent taking down enemies is time that could have been spent exploring for another item or solving another puzzle.
It will be no surprise to anyone to learn that Minit is brought to us by Devolver Digital. Devolver has been building up a fascinating reputation, building a collection of games that are each remarkably unique while retaining a broad approach that makes them recognisably part of a larger artistic idea. Minit takes the tritone graphics of Downwell, the rapid iteration time of Hotline Miami and the focused and tight puzzle design of The Talos Principle. Or perhaps it takes none of those things, but was chosen by Devolver because it reflected artistic principles have started to become recognisably theirs.
Minit is, to summarise, brilliant. It is a delight of experimental design, taking its simple concept to such extremes that it strains belief.
It is not, however, perfect. For one thing, it’s not really about anything. The plot is very much an excuse. You have picked up the cursed sword, please go to the factory, because that’s all the dialogue I am going to give you at this time. With an experimental idea such as this, that’s always a danger but I did find it frustrating at various points. For a game with an excellent sense of humour and a charming visual style, I often found myself shocked at how little I cared about this world. Perhaps that’s intentional, an attempt to refute narrative by throwing in a bunch of nothing and calling it narrative before focusing on the real meat of the game design. However, as I played, I found myself wondering what one might be capable of doing by crafting a game that actually was about something while using these same mechanics.
a delight of experimental design, taking its simple concept to such extremes that it strains belief
It’s also worth mentioning that while I found the visual design utterly charming, it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is visually reminiscent of Downwell, but that game’s three colours have been locked down to just two and there is no opportunity to change which colour we will be spending our time looking for.
There are also some cases where you will not be aware of where to go next to the point of frustration. Missing a single clue can often leave you stuck for days, particularly when the game fails to make clear something you are nor capable of.
All of which makes the game a little more tricky to recommend. But recommend it is indeed what I want to do. Minit may be simple. Minit may be confusing. Minit may be unpleasant to look at. But Minit is an excellent example of what game designers can do when they have an excellent idea and they are focused on bringing it to life.
It’s the kind of game that you recommend with just that hint of caution. You might not like it. But if you do, you’ll wonder why it took so long for someone to do something like this.
Minit is now available on PC, PS4 and XBox One. Find out more at minitgame.com.