New year, new miniature Devolver game. Following the irreverent and gleefully, dayglofully violent High Hell, the newly-minted Minit arrives with a decidedly different tone and sense of atmosphere. With a tight team of four developers, headed by JW (a/k/a Jan Willem Nijman of Vlambeer fame) and Kitty Calis, Minit is an experimental little monochromatic adventure game with a strangely compelling core concept: each playthrough is limited to 60 seconds.
When I first heard of the concept, I suspected that there would appear some type of eventual adjustment, a magic talisman you’d doubtlessly find that extends your lifespan/timespan, similar to the Song of Time in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, rendering the ticking seconds in the top-left corner some essentially moldable inbuilt mechanic the game would render to putty in your hands. This is absolutely not the case, and Minit sticks to its scripted guns, offering alternate pathing and a few helpful items that best enrich how you spend those 60 seconds, rather than break their essential gating.
What are you doing with those 60 seconds, though? I’d wager, primarily, running around like mad and looking for the next puzzle, gewgaw, or distraction. Believe it or not, Minit has a kind of quest system that remains undocumented in the game itself, but always propels you to and fro. Following clues on signage will lead you to new pursuits (or, even, the signmaker themselves), apportioned by your time and your pathfinding. Your character moves in the cardinal directions in a way quite similar to The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, from which Minit also takes its sense of seaside dreamishness. Shortly after starting off you’re more-or-less shuttled to a sword on a beach which, along with a few scant items, represent your main methods for interacting with the world and its denizens. Some will help you or stand in your way, and some are critters to kill…but all of them will slow you down, whether it’s a prattling old man at a lighthouse who will literally talk you to death, or a sneaker salesman whose wares will speed up your character, manifesting an enticing early-game carrot.
In a sense, part of me wonders if one of Minit‘s philosophies is the omnipresent mechanic of “invisible walls” in gaming. As you figure out new routes and different distractions to chase like fireflies at night, you start to feel out the edges of what’s available to you. The “Endless Desert” in the game really isn’t endless at all, it’s merely limited by your time, which didn’t stop me from pursuing its verifiable contours all the same (I never found them, btw). These thoughts mix with what should be a sense of franticness—oh my god I’m almost out of time! Go go go—but settle into a feeling of, “Huh. I have 22 seconds left. I’m not going to make it this go-round, so I’ll wait, fuss around, or just die and try it next time.” I often tried to square those two energies to determine how they spoke to each other in practice, but I don’t know if the end-result always seemed as thoughtfully intended. In Minit‘s worst moments, you clearly understand your next objective, and almost arrive to it, but get slighted by a few seconds.
That’s not indicative of the bulk of the experience, though, which took me a few hours to complete as I hunted various optional secrets, opening up a New Game+ mode to boot. The best moments of Minit are where a myriad of potentials, mysteries, and puzzles lay before you, with each often leading to further elaborations down the line. There’s just the right amount of handholding to make you feel smart when you crack a new curiosity, and just the right amount of charming snark in its NPCs (all of whom, thankfully, parrot their lines without prompting, avoiding any sluggish “press A to talk” fumbles). I also want to make special mention of composer Jukio Kallio and his wonderful soundtrack work, conjuring call-to-adventure chiptune anthems and quiet reprieves that mix with oceanic ambience, all of which pleasantly vary between each one-minute sojourn.
Bite-sized, byte-sized, and bright-eyed, Minit is a gem.
Minit is now on Steam for $9.99, and available for PC, Mac and Linux. Review copy played on PC, but the game is also available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.