When a game developer opts for a minimalistic approach, it's always a bold move. However, few have mastered this modus operandi. The question is, does Minutes have what it takes to be a worthwhile experience or should you spend your time elsewhere?
Minutes features incredibly simplistic gameplay. You basically move a circle around while avoiding darkly shaded hazards and collecting coloured lines for points. As you play through the campaign and collect stars for obtaining high scores, you'll unlock upgrades that allow you to execute power-ups and change the size of your circle. The larger your circle is, the more dangerous maneuvering becomes, but you'll also accumulate more points. The controls are responsive and easy to learn so there are no gameplay issues that'll stand in your way of becoming a Minutes master.
Visually speaking, Minutes is as minimal as its gameplay. Backgrounds are heavily hued subtle images such as clouds, gears, or forests that contrast well with the solidly rendered foregrounds. Graphical cues such as how the damage you've sustained is reflected by the size of an exclamation mark inside your circle, and how the outer rim of your circle fills according to the amount of points you've gathered are interesting alternatives to displaying this information on the side of the screen. The time remaining understatedly blends into the background as to not loom over your head and make you panic. Featured music is an eclectic mix of electronica including dubstep, electro, and progressive tracks that change frequently enough to not get repetitive. The effect as you absorb points sounds like a power saw which has both an intriguing and satisfying impact. In contrast, it's not always obvious when you get damaged as it's too quiet to notice at times. Overall, the unique style makes Minutes stand out as a one-of-a-kind indie title.
Minutes primarily consists of one mode in the form of a 60 stage campaign. If you play conservatively, it's quite an easy task to breeze through every minute-long stage without dying too much. However, mastering stages is much more difficult as there is a lot to do. Each stage rewards you with up to three stars according to your score and contains goals such as completing the stage with no damage, discovering a smiley face known as Minuteman, and collecting 100% of the available score pieces. If you manage to achieve everything then that stage gets marked as perfect. When you're halfway through, it's difficult not to become bored since things don't change much from stage one. Sure, a few more hazards are introduced and you get upgrades, but it isn't enough to keep the minimal gameplay engaging. The only other mode is the Daily Challenge where you have one attempt at a stage to see where you rank on the leaderboard. It's a nifty diversion, but I can't imagine anyone turning on Minutes every day just to play for one minute.
As previously mentioned, you acquire upgrades as you gain stars. Besides allowing you to change your circle to different sizes, you also have the ability to unleash four power-ups that can slow the stage down, restore your health, deploy a shield, and detonate a blast that wipes out nearby hazards. These power-ups are later upgraded to become even more potent. Anyway, one aspect of upgrading that's disappointingly counterproductive is the fact that you can't possibly get scores high enough to unlock all three stars until you've maximized the ability to grow your circle. This doesn't happen until much later in the campaign, so you're forced to backtrack if you want to collect all of the stars. Some replay value may be added for perfectionists who love to unlock everything, but even they'll find it odd that it's impossible to master the first stage until you're much further in the campaign.
Minutes is an interesting high score chaser with easy to learn gameplay. If you can overlook the counterproductive progression system and won't get bored with a mostly unchanging campaign, then you may have a solid hour of fun with this arcade-inspired indie.
- + Simple to understand gameplay
- + Unique visuals with well suited eclectic audio
- + Decent amount of replay value if you don't mind playing through multiple times
- - Forces you to backtrack since it's impossible to get decent scores before upgrading
- - Basically comprised of one brief campaign
- - Stages aren't varied enough to stay engaging