Minit is built on a novel idea, but it excels on the strength of charm, smarts, and creativity in this top-down Zelda-style RPG.
Minit is a charming game built on a good idea, which is an increasingly rare thing these days. In it, you play as a little pixelated bird-dude who exists in a black-and-white world reminiscent of a Gameboy-era top-down Zelda game in more ways than one.
It’s an RPG – kind of. You can pick up weapons and bits of equipment that allow you access to more of the map, and you can extend your health meter with additional hearts. Oh, and you can cut the grass with a sword. So far, so Zelda.
But the conceit of Minit is that your little birdy buddy only lives for 60 seconds. You dash out of his home, and the world extends across multiple screens in all directions. You might ask yourself what’s going on, or where you’re supposed to go. Then, a minute later, he drops dead.
Luckily, he wakes up again, in his bed in that house, for another fleeting 60-second existence. Later, as you explore the world and find more houses to doss in, he’ll wake up there instead.
Every minute, your character dies.
The most impressive thing about Minit is that this is nowhere near as frustrating or stifling as it sounds. There are lots of reasons why. The first is that certain actions have permanence. If you find, say, a sword or a watering can or another key item, the next time you die and leave your house it’ll be waiting for you outside.
If you use one of those items to open a new path, you can use that path in your next life. If you help a character out of a bind, he stays helped. Good deeds, in Minit, last forever.
Another reason this works is that the world is designed to be experienced in one-minute intervals. The bed thing is a part of that. As you uncover more of the world, you in turn uncover more places from which you can enter it. Whatever you need to do, you can do it in less than a minute. And if you can’t, you’re doing it wrong. This becomes clear very early.
Once you adapt to that, you start to fall into the experimental rhythm of heading in a direction and seeing what you can find. In one life, you might talk to a character, bash a few things with your sword, whatever. None of it yields anything interesting (besides, often, some funny gags) so in the next life, you rush through that screen to the next one. And here there’s something new to pick up, or someone who asks a favour. Turns out that favour is on the previous screen. So, in the third life, you accomplish the task, receive the reward for doing so, and die. You wake up to more possibilities.
This is the Minit experience. You prod and poke at the world until you uncover a hole, then you die, and respawn, and dive straight through it. You can expedite the process with a button that immediately terminates the current minute.
It’s a short game, and technically a simple one, but there’s a lot here: puzzles, jokes, secret areas, challenges, details, ideas – way more than I was able to see in one playthrough. Don’t let the minimalist aesthetic fool you. Minit is so full of joy and inventiveness that pretty soon you scarcely notice it’s in black and white at all.