The Duck that Couldn't Slow Down
A beautifully minimalist adventure game played sixty seconds at a time, Minit finally comes to the Nintendo Switch and if you thought that a portable console was the perfect home for a game experienced in minute-long bursts, you’d be right.
Minit achieves a lot with a little.
It’s a design ethos that runs through almost every element of the game, from the tiny four-person development team to the core mechanic, everything about Minit is meticulously designed to accomplish big things by small means. The collaborative effort of three developers, Kitty Calis (@kittycalis) Dominik Johann (@zerstoerer) Jan Willem Nijman (@jwaaaap) and composer Jukio Kallio (@jukiokallio), Minit is a deliberately small action adventure game in the vein of early Zelda titles brought to life by a minimalist black and white pixel art style and nostalgic soundtrack.
Minit casts you as a small duck-esque creature whose idyllic beachfront life is interrupted by the discovery of a sword that has washed up on the sand. When our little Anatidae-lite friend picks up the sword a terrible fate befalls him; a sixty-second timer immediately lurches to life and when the time runs out he is struck down by forces unknown, only to awaken again in his home with the timer running once more. It’s Majora’s Mask jacked up to the eleven, a finite loop in which our hero must explore as much of the world as he can before time resets and only key items are untouched by the reversal of time.
In theory, sixty seconds doesn’t sound like enough time to do much of anything in a world the size of Minit but in practice, the minute-long trips into the wilderness are acutely perfect. Any possible anxiety the time limit may induce is consistently dispelled thanks to the pixel-perfect design of the world, which isn’t to say that there aren’t going to be many a close call as you rush to achieve the quests at hand but the game never once feels punishing. Which is a huge achievement for a title with such a tight time mechanic, but Minit recontexualises constriction, transforming it into a thrilling puzzle that, even when failed, will never set you back so far as to incur frustration, just determination to try again.
The world of Minit feels very of the now; a minimalist art direction lets your imagination colour between the lines as more of the vaguely post-apocalyptic land unfolds before you. The environmental storytelling on display is wonderfully desolate; a cave housing the remains of a supply truck, a tiny pub with an excitable jukebox, a dilapidated grocery store that a merchant has made his home, Minit manages to build an intriguing world from the most basic visual building blocks. While the retro aesthetic doesn’t leave much room for details the game oozes charm – fans of the eclectic Adventure Time will find this harmony of fantastical stylings with modern day remnants very familiar.
Quests exist in the lightest sense imaginable but there is more than enough intrigue baked into the world to keep you motivated to experience the next minute. Each time you venture out of your home you can uncover secrets, explore a variety of locations and even help out the locals (a queer cast of weirdos that never failed to make me smile) with their strange requests. The manner in which you do these things isn’t overly varied but a short runtime (approximately 150 lives worth of game excluding the new game + mode) prevents any of these basic mechanics from feeling underwhelming.
Combat is a simple sword strike, puzzles are often blocks pushed in the right direction, dungeon doors are unlocked by defeating a certain number of snakes, that strange cat fellow just wants to hear some good tunes…okay, so not all quests are traditional but the bulk of Minit plays out like a charming homage to games before it. Except when it’s being smarter than your average game, which is blessedly often.
Minit rewards attentiveness with convenience; hidden shortcuts, new spawning locations, watering cans to help your garden grow and health upgrades are all over the map but in your first few rushes through you’re likely to miss them. Minit gives you a precise level of control over your time in its world, a dedicated button can end your run at a moments notice, giving those failed attempts at puzzles a swift death and paired with the lightning fast rebirth the rhythm becomes infectious. All of these engaging little mechanics are scored by Kallio’s outstanding soundtrack, an upbeat melding of traditional chip-tunes and rhythmic drums that makes each minute a joy.
Despite the game’s short runtime and limited array of mechanics, Minit never fails to imbue each sixty-second run with buoyancy and life. A charming cast of characters and an intriguing, dilapidated world vibe with the minimalist aesthetic beautifully while your imagination is left with just enough to do to fill in the rest. The core mechanic of living your life one minute at a time provides endless opportunities to better your playstyle each time without ever becoming frustrating. Minit feels at home on the Switch, ideal for portability and priced just right for the enjoyable if a little too brief experience it is.