What do you get when you boil down the action-adventure genre down to its bare minimum? You need some combat, some exploration and some puzzle solving, and BOOM! You have a new game to compete with Zelda.
Now do all of that is 60 seconds.
This is the conceit behind Minit, the latest indie game by Devolver Digital.
You take the role of a nameless protagonist that picks up a cursed sword. Fated to die every 60 seconds, our cute pixelated protagonist sets off on an adventure to remove the curse, and I guess save the world or something.
It is, for all intents and purposes, the action adventure genre cut down to its core gameplay elements. It’s light on story, light on graphics, and heavy on the sort of gameplay that keeps Zelda fans coming back for more.
Sixty Seconds to Solve the Puzzle
The core gameplay loop of Minit might seem familiar to fans of Majora’s Mask. You are constantly restarting the game but a few key things remain changed. If you manage to find a new item, it will always spawn with you after you die. If you manage to get an upgrade you will keep that upgrade after death.
Puzzles are largely the only thing that resets, but you usually only have to solve them once. Most puzzles reward you with clues, which you won’t need to hear again, or items, which you keep permanently.
Minit has no shortage of puzzles for you to solve. In fact, 90 percent of the game is puzzle based with only a splash of combat here or there. Most puzzles are classic item based gates. Something will block your way and only a certain item will get you past it. This would be repetitive in any other action-adventure game, but the task of figuring out the puzzle, figuring out the solution, obtaining the item you need, and bringing it to the right place, all within 60 seconds, keeps you constantly engaged.
Long drawn-out combat sequences would be a death sentence with this time limit so most enemies deal a lot of damage and take only a few hits to kill. They are really only small stumping blocks. In fact, since you are constantly on the clock you will run past most enemies. The only times you have to stop and engage in combat are times when combat itself is a puzzle solution. If an NPC asks you to kill crabs, then the puzzle becomes “how do I kill all these crabs and report back to the NPC in 60 seconds?”
Minit’s best puzzles play around with the time limit. For example, one old NPC gives you an important clue, but he talks very slowly. It takes about 45 seconds for him to finish his long meandering story, so you will likely devote an entire life just to hearing him talk.
There’s another simple puzzle which requires you to play the right song on a jukebox to please an NPC. There’s no way to know this NPC’s tastes so you just have to play songs by trial and error. It will probably take you a whole life to discover what song he likes, but on subsequent lives you can play that song immediately without wasting time.
There are times that the time limit gets frustrating. This is usually when you are mere seconds away from solving a puzzle before dying and having to do it all over again. Luckily, there are a few mechanics that help mitigate this frustration. You can kill yourself at any time, allowing you to restart your loop whenever. This is useful for when you realize that you were on the wrong track toward a particular puzzle solution, or when you’ve accidentally wandered into an area with a gate that you can’t yet get past. Death warps are common in Minit. In fact they are your quickest method of transportation.
There are also safe houses strewn about that change your respawn point. To spawn at these houses, all you have to do is enter them. This is great for completing puzzles in new areas of the map, but be cautioned. Sometimes you’ll have to backtrack to early areas and you can do this in fewer lives if you keep your original spawn point.
A Short Game on a Short Clock
Minit is an unfortunately short game by design. Going in dry, you can beat it in an hour or two. However, there’s much more to do after your first run. Finding every item and completing every quest will take a few more hours, for example.
There’s also a New Game + mode which shortens your time to 40 seconds and swaps around the locations of certain items. You’ll absolutely have to bypass some puzzles (like the aforementioned 45 second hint story) in this mode and work largely by memory.
The eventual goal of Minit is speedrunning. It acts as a decent introduction since you don’t automatically have to time yourself. You can just try to beat the game in as few lives as possible, and that acts as a pseudo-timer. There’s something about this system that takes the edge off for new runners.
You’ll naturally fall into speedrunning strategies as you play through the game. Sequence breaks, skips, and quick kills are all absolutely needed when you are constantly on a 60 second timer. Without even realizing it, you’ll be routing out the game in your head just like a pro runner.
Making Good Use of Pixels
I’d say that Minit is an almost perfect indie game if not for its graphics. It’s a highly pixelated black and white game that doesn’t even run in widescreen. This will be sure to appeal to retro gamers but can certainly turn off anyone looking for a more modern take on the action-adventure genre.
This basic presentation is almost necessary to make the 60 second gimmick playable. Enemies, NPCs, and puzzle pieces stick out of the black and white background like a sore thumb so you always know to make a bee-line toward them as soon as you enter a screen.
The music, on the other hand, is amazing. Minit’s chiptunes are addictive melodies that get stuck in your head well after you have turned it off. They are all somewhat tense, constantly reinforcing the ever ticking clock.
Worth Your Minits
I enjoyed Minit. Yes, it’s a short game but at a $10 price tag, you get a lot of bang for your buck. It scratched that action-adventure itch in a rapid and intense way. I had no time to meander around the world. I was solving puzzles and fighting enemies the whole time. It was nonstop Zelda-like action injected directly into my eyeballs.
Minit might not be the next big AAA action-adventure you were waiting for, but it will easily fill the moments between other games you are playing. It’s an indie game that is well worth your time, even if that time is limited to 60 second chunks.