An Army of Minions!

Review of Minions! on XBLIG: Buy
This shooter’s simplified style belies serious strategy and real challenge.

Minions! is a slightly different take on the shooter genre. Instead of a first-person view, however, there’s a choice between a third-person camera and a top-down camera (which functions like a dual-stick shooter). Its seven missions feature common scenarios such as search-and-destroy, escort, and hold-and-defend. While it only offers a single-player mode, the player character is constantly assisted by a collection of eponymous minions in a nod to team- and squad-based shooters.

In addition, Minions! throws in a few RPG elements. The main character earns experience from directly killing enemies (minions can steal your kills) which can be used to beef up speed, damage, health, and shields, and gold drops. It’s possible to go back and grind through previous missions for experience. Over the course of the game, three specialized minions can also be customized for hire during each level. While both of these elements were helpful in the long run, I didn’t see a noticeable difference in power as I leveled up. This isn’t a complaint—I never felt I could substitute level grinding for good tactics or strategy.

Good strategy is essential to winning. While I found the first three missions a piece of cake—mainly because they’re almost impossible to lose, given infinite respawns—later missions became frustratingly difficult. Mission 4, for example, requires taking down the Red Team’s super tank before it reaches Blue Base. I replayed it countless times, maxed out my character, and still couldn’t win by attacking the tank head-on. It turned out the only effective way to win was to draw the tank’s fire and let my turret and minion allies (with their effective rocket and laser attacks) do the hard work for me.  Again, this isn’t a complaint, although it will likely be a turn-off for some casual gamers. (Full disclosure: I reached the final level, but could not finish it.)

I’m not a fan of the presentation, but the gameplay more than makes up for it. The game’s style reminds me of Lego men (although I don’t think Lego would ever license a game with this much blood). It has charm, but the oversimplified 3D models and rough animations may be a turn-off at first glance. In addition, most of the player character’s voiced quips fell flat for me, and some are even groan-worthy (the female commando starts one level by saying, “I wonder if there’s a mall in this town?”).

I give Minions! a Buy. While it’s not going to give A-list squad-based FPS titles a run for their money, fans of that genre will enjoy the strategic elements (although casual gamers will likely find them frustrating). It’s a difficult game, but it has a lot of variety and it’s addictively fun.

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