Day 348: Minions!

Posted: 2011/10/25 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #348, and today’s game is “Minions!”.

How would one describe “Minions!”? A real-time strategy (RTS) game? A third-person shooter? A tower-defence game? An RPG? Strangely, it’s all of those things and none of those things, all at once. Confused? Read on.

First, from the developer (TurtleTossStudio):

“Minions! is a mission-based shooter that can be played from both top-down and third-person perspectives. You create a hero, accompanied by a wide range of different minions to help you complete each mission. As the challenges get tougher, your hero will unlock points to spend on upgrades and customized minions.”

Minions! is an interesting beast. The feature set sounds a bit like it was created by a committee, and… well, that’s exactly how it happened. Minions! was created by a team of students for whom game creation is part of their curriculum. There are a few of these on the indie games channel, such as “Inertia!”. Minions! came up (prior to its release) during an interview with developer “Angry Newton”, another student team making a game called “Mr. Gravity” (look for it to be reviewed in the future).

The idea of a genre-blending game can be a risky one at the best of times, especially one designed by a group of rookie developers. How do you make it feel whole? Minions! gets it right, by letting you choose how you interact with it. The game actually lets you play the level zoomed out (letting you approach it like a strategy game) or zoomed in (where you can take direct control of the action in third-person shooting). Minions! has an impressive variety of levels, including some where you’re on offence and others that are defensive and take on a tower defence-ish feel.

Minions! has you creating a main character which leads your army, and then crafting minions to work for the leader. A pretty wide variety of upgrades and customisations are available for both, affecting both attributes and appearance (including the ability to mimic some popular characters from other games, such as Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell). Here’s where the RPG-ish elements kick in, with character stats and other upgrades accumulating over time. The personality you’re able to imbue to your charges helps you get invested in their fates, which added to the experience for me.

Also impressive is the level design, which not only have hidden weapons and other elements that may assist you, but even short-cuts across the level that can mean the difference between difficulty and defeat (the developers of Hydro Thunder would be proud). If you get stuck there’s the option of replaying previously defeated missions to further level up your troops before tackling a difficult challenge again. All in all, this game is crazy good for 80 Microsoft Points, and the ability to play it as action-oriented, or as strategy-oriented, as you wish makes it a must buy.

  1. It’s certainly something different. I don’t think the trial does it justice (a common problem with the more involved games) but for 80 points, it can hardly go wrong. Certainly the switch between top-down and third-person shooter acts as more than just a camera shift.

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