About 240. That’s the number of minutes I’ve put into this scorechasing arcade game. In that time, I beat the game twice, surmounted some of the extra tasks, and took part in a couple of daily challenges. For a practically one man team, Richard Ogden at Red Phantom Games has constructed a very capable puzzler around a few simple concepts: Each level lasts 60 seconds; avoid black lines/bubbles; the size of your circle is proportional to your point multiplier. The game weaves that formula into 60 levels that will test your reaction speeds and your ability to precisely maneuver your circle around the screen. There’s also an inherent puzzle element that stretches the content a bit.
In the first few levels of Minutes, you’ll master the basics of the game. Move your circle to collect colored lines which score points. Avoid collecting (or even touching) black lines, as too much will burst your bubble. The minimalist design of the game makes its mechanics easily accessible. The background art is static and only changes once every few levels. There are grey bubbles that float between the foreground and the background, but besides for that, the game is graphically crisp and clean. No fancy parallax scrolling or processor-pushing 2D spritework here. Still, the game manages to pull you in with its austere presentation. There are no visual barriers between the player and the game, which makes it far from confusing. After a few levels, the game begins adding layers that, for better or worse, make the experience more complex.
One of the first new layers is the ability to increase or decrease the size of your circle. Increasing the circle’s size (R button) will increase the score multiplier by a factor of one. Decreasing its size halves the multiplier. The obvious tradeoff here is that the larger your circle, the more difficult it is to avoid damaging entities (I’m getting tired of writing ‘black lines’). Inversely, the smaller your circle, the easier it is to keep clear. By about halfway through the game, you’ll have the ability to pilot a hulking 3X multiplier giant around the screen. It’s a pretty sweet feeling, lapping up points and crushing target scores. On the ‘enemy’ front, the game adds bubbles that change from black to colored, spinning wheels with protruding lines, and beams that remain on-screen for a few seconds. I felt fine with each of these separate additions, but it’s a bit off-putting when all three show up at once. I particularly dislike the spinning wheel type, as their rotation speeds and protruding line lengths are not fixed. Bubbles and beams seem to fit just fine, but the spinning wheels spoil the recipe a bit.
Each level features a handful of extra objectives. You can try to achieve three ascending scores, collect all colored lines, and/or not take damage for the entirety of the level. There’s also a minuteman that floats across the screen. Tap it to activate it. In order to get a perfect, you’ll have to complete all of these (save for the minuteman) in a single run. It’s a difficult task; one that requires a decent amount of pattern recognition and a bit of level memorization. The sound design helps a bit here, as a closing door effect plays when you mess up any one of the tasks. The pursuit of perfecting a level reminds me a bit of Coconut Dodge‘s air mazes. However, the powerups in Minutes make the game more complex than its simplistic face might imply. Each face button activates a different powerup. In clockwise order from Triangle, the abilities are a shield that blocks black lines, a slow-time, a heal (later a full heal) that negates incurred damage, and a shockwave that eradicates black lines but ignores colored lines. I understand the point of the powerups – to add an extra layer of depth to a minimal game. However, I didn’t enjoy using them too much (proven by the fact that I inadvertently earned the Abstinence trophy). In some levels, it was obvious that I had to slow time in order to perfect a stage. In others, it’s not as easy to figure out what powerups to use. Again, I get that this is partially the point of the powerups – ask the player to think and strategize with his/her abilities – but I lost interest instead of feeling compelled to figure out the puzzle.
As a cross-buy, cross-save arcade title, Minutes does a lot of things right. The music is great, fitting the feeling of facing off against the clock. The minimalist aesthetic lends itself well to scorechasing. The difficulty of the game harkens back to arcade games of old. Daily challenges are great for the leaderboard fieinds. The powerups are a fine addition in the sense that they allow the player to go back to earlier stages to beat challenges. I was at first intrigued by the idea that the game is ridiculously tough to perfect, but lost interested in that quest a few hours in. For a couple of hours (or about 240 minutes) of throwback scorechasing with an initially easy access point, buy Minutes. The cross-save works well and the game plays great on both platforms.
PSNStores Dev Chat with Richard Ogden of Red Phantom Games
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Varying musical styles
- Minimalist aesthetic
What I Dislike:
- Lasting impression
- Combinations of 'enemy' types