Just the idea of Minit is enough to make me squirm.
It’s the time limit that does it; an ever-marching expiry date that’s impervious to pleads or procrastination, a silent but ever-present threat that’ll see you fall to the ground and die every sixty seconds, over and over again. There are no secret ways to expand or pervert it – no clever tricks to hide from it. Every minute, without fail, you will die. End of.
This kind of pressure is, admittedly, horrifying. A one minute deadline for everything? A lifespan that expires in a single minute? I’ve wasted more time than that just reorganising an inventory – how on earth am I supposed to finish an entire game?
60 seconds isn’t long, but it’s surprising how quickly you’ll adapt to Minit’s constraints, and how much you can get done once its short loop imprints this strange, charming world on the inside of your head. So if Minit’s very conceit is enough to unsettle you, you owe it to yourself to give it a chance; before long you’ll become accustomed to the short bursts of activity, and you’ll realise that even though death slams down every minute, you’re no longer scared of it – and that’s curiously liberating.
Though it presents itself as a top-down Zelda-esque action RPG, the core of Minit is a competent little puzzler. Yes, its story unfolds via contrived 8-bit presentation, complete with the plinky-plunky music of the era, and yes, there’s been a lot of this lately; games crafted to artificially appeal to nostalgia, evoking memories of sitting cross-legged on the living room rug as you/your father/mother/brother/sister/friend darted, usually lost, around Hyrule. But while there’s a lot of that baked into Minit’s design, to its credit it feels more like a sincere homage than a cynical device designed only to tap into your childhood – not to mention a cunning way of hiding its greatest secrets in plain sight, too.
While there’s little to discern in the details of Minit’s monochrome palette, this inevitably invites exploration. There are no shiny interactable items giving themselves away as soon as you step into a room, and no indicators (a strange ghostly encounter aside) of what secrets are stuffed into the world, either. This means only by trial and error can you begin to uncover the mysteries secreted around Minit’s landscape, and as your inventory and abilities grow, so will your curiosity. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
Cyclical deaths mean you learn to expedite your activities, too. Shortcuts and transporters help you traverse the map quickly, and you’ll learn which shrubs to cut, which stump blocks the speediest pathway, and how long it’ll take for you to get from, say, the Endless Desert to your own front door. And while you might expect the constant threat of death to heap on the pressure, in truth it does the opposite. Fail to get into the door in time? That’s okay; avoid that rock next time and you’ll be just fine.
And that’s how Minit gets its hooks into you; there’s always another opportunity to re-try, and always a second chance. All you’ve lost is a single minute, and all it takes is a single minute to put things right. Your progress is always saved, which means despite having to hack through the same three hedges every time you leave the house, the important stuff – item collection, puzzle solving, boss-esque encounters etc. – save even after you’ve cast off your mortal coil for the eleventy gazillionth time. And just when you think you’ve had enough and can’t be bothered to keep trekking through the same old places again, you’ll happen upon a new resting place, opening up another window of exploration in this curious world.
The puzzles themselves are simple if not quite easy, offering just the right balance of challenge to keep you on your toes without ever overwhelming you. As you might expect, the 60-second cycles mean gameplay is usually quick and dirty, offering a selection of fight-this, fetch-that, and hide-and-seek quests, their allure somewhat artificially bolstered by your ever-looming expiry date. That said, there are plenty of secrets, too – hidden entrances, secret corridors – things you’ll typically only find if you’re not looking for them.
Does the constant life/death cycle make you a little cavalier about the life of your companion? Sadly, yes. You’ll often find yourself prematurely cutting its life short – you can expedite a death at the touch of a button, forcing a respawn – if you know you won’t be able to reach the next resting place within the remaining time. Eventually, the deaths that seemed so significant at the beginning become little more than a minor irritant.
As you might expect from a game presenting itself in 60-second chunks, this isn’t a long, drawn-out affair, and you’ll probably only wring an hour or two out of Minit. That said, there’s a punishing New Game+ which sees your time cut further still to 40 seconds, just one life-heart, and a little re-jig of some of those set-pieces you’ve become so blas to, turning what you thought you knew on its head. There’s also the opportunity to keep playing your original game, too, enabling you to mop up those elusive items and secrets still yet to be discovered.
No, it’s not much game for the money – even if it is just a few quid – and no, it won’t appeal to everyone, its premise and aesthetics perhaps off-putting for those needing more depth to their games than a curious gimmick. But despite the monochrome palette and simple, wholesome story, Minit’s world is stuffed with charm and character that belies its lo-fi presentation – and it’s a lovely way to while away a few spare minutes of your own.