‘Minutes’ is advertised in the press-release as being many things, the antidote to ‘AAA’ gaming, thematically linked to the idea that we are performing ‘tasks’ in games as opposed to really ‘gaming’, taking a truly ‘abstract’ look at the world through the eyes of the developer.
It all sounds pretty deep. What it amounts to, however, is a very simple but addictive “score-attack” arcade game newly come to Vita. The game comes from one-man developer Richard Ogden of Red Phantom Studios, and is one of the surprise gems of the year.
The fundamental premise of the game is this. Per level, you have exactly one minute to guide a circle around a screen picking up certain coloured lines and objects, and avoiding others. The developer describes this as a ‘twisted form of bullet-hell, and there is something in this description. The big differentiator, however, is that you can decide at any point to increase the size of the circle. Increasing the size of the circle ensures that you pick up more points, and it is essential to do this in order to progress in the game, let alone to pursue the high scores.
The effect of adding this “risk-reward” mechanic on the game is profound, as the player moves the circle around the screen desperately trying to figure out the best moment to expand the circle and to take the higher scores required. Touching the ‘bad’ energy does not result in instant death, but it does not take a great deal to result in death, and in starting the level over.
As you progress, ‘power-ups’ are unlocked. These are always available from the point of unlocking, but only one can be used per level. For example, you may decide to use a shield for a short amount of time, slow down the movement on screen. I found that I kept using the power up to restore energy, probably an indication of my limited gaming skills than anything else. Deciding on the timing of the power-up becomes another part of the decision making process adding extra excitement and depth to the gameplay.
The game rapidly becomes addictive. I found that within an hour of downloading the game my wife and I were competing on high scores! It’s a game that lends itself to this, in that you can pass the Vita to a friend for example and the ‘minute’ timings keep things moving quickly. It would be nice to have the ability to put your name by a local high score because of this.
Difficulty is certainly pitched at ‘hard’ but ‘Minutes’ is always fair. There’s never a moment where you feel that a task is impossible, it’s always down to your fault or misjudgement is you miss an item or take just too much risk. The added combination of the ‘minute’ time-limit means that there is always enough time for one more go, one more try at beating the challenge.
The timing of the game makes this, uniquely among Vita titles, an extremely ‘portable’ game. It really is possible, in fact it’s impossible not to, play the game for a minute and try to get your highest score.
Graphically, the game is basic but crisp and clear. It also moves very smoothly, with a very acceptable frame-rate for those who are in to that sort of thing. Sonically, the game is fantastic, with a pumping soundtrack that carries you along with it, and perfectly serviceable sound-effects.
I should also like to give special attention to the fact that the game has extremely fast load times, something that is increasingly rare in Vita games these days and gives the game that true ‘pick up and play’ essence.
There’s not much more to the game than the 60 levels described, however the drive to better your scores and go for those all-important ‘perfects’ mitigates against the need for ‘unlockables’ etc. And believe me, you will feel the need to better your scores. The game is not shy to tell you how you have only just sneaked past the requirement to go to the next level, and are in fact nowhere near the requirements for a ‘perfect’.
Being completely unskilled, I can’t wait to see the video evidence of people completing ‘perfects’, not least so I can improve my own scores!
There is very little to fault with this title. However, the game does have its beginnings in PlayStation Mobile, and its origins in mobile gaming can be clearly seen. By which I mean, the ‘stop’ between levels before moving to the next one, reminiscent of an iOS game, and it would be nice to have at least the option of a more coherent console / arcade experience where you seamlessly move through the levels (until you die, of course!). This is pure nit-picking, however.
In all, this is another excellent addition to the Vita’s roster of games. Addictive, fun and challenging, it has held my attention on the console longer than some of the more in-depth titles, it would make an excellent addition to any Vita owner’s memory card.
At A Glance
- Title: Minutes
- Publisher: Red Phantom Studios
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: Yes (PS4)
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 189Mb