Feature Article

E3 2017: You Have Only 60 Seconds To Make Progress In This Zelda-Like Adventure Game

Coffee. It lets you move boxes.

Roguelikes center around runs. Since your progress resets when you die, you're meant to build up a familiarity with the game's mechanics by throwing yourself at the game until you understand it better and can make it further each run. These runs are meant to be relatively short; you play for twenty to thirty minutes, sometimes an hour, before death and reset. That's the formula that most roguelikes follow.

In Minit, you've got one minute. Every single run is one minute long, never longer

It's a roguelike in a pure sense, with inventory, skills, and stats mostly stripped away in favor of simplicity and singularity of purpose. You must explore as much of Minit's world as possible during each minute-long run. You must make sure that your movements are deliberate, that you don't waste a second, so that you can complete each stage of the level.

I only got to spend a short time with Minit at E3 2017, but it left a huge impression. It's one of the cooler concepts for a game that I've seen in some time--and it's really fun, as well.

I like to think that the game's title is a pun on "minute" and "minimal," because minimalism defines this game. In addition to its much-restrained roguelike system, it also has a monochromatic, 8-bit art style that is simple but evocative nonetheless. It actually looks a lot like the aesthetic of Downwell.

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When you first start the game, your nondescript, undefined character wakes up in a house. You walk out and down to a beach, where you stumble across a sword. Grabbing the sword, you are cursed--and a timer in the upper left immediately starts ticking down from 60. From then on, you must explore this island and find a way to unlock each new area. You'll encounter enemies, puzzles, and NPCs, and each time that clock hits zero, you'll die and wake up in your house again. The few items you get will stay with you, so you don't have to worry about retrieving them again. But other than that, it's more or less a clean slate every time you die.

Over the course of the game--which developers Jan Nijman and Kitty Calis say should take about three hours to finish the first time around--you encounter all sorts of different puzzles and traps.

I won't spoil these puzzles, because they compose the core of the game, but one encounter encapsulates Minit's gameplay loop and its tone: soon after I grabbed the sword, I wandered over to a lighthouse. By the lighthouse stood an old man, so I stopped to talk to him. He began to tell me the story about how he got there--extraordinarily slowly. His text bubble revealed only about one word a second, meaning that, by the time he finished talking, half of my run had been wasted.

Minit is full of red herrings and distractions like that, which can be both nefarious and playful. During my demo, Nijman and Calis stressed that their development philosophy centers around the small details. In other words, there are, of course, big events that happen in the game. But the smaller, momentary encounters matter a lot, as well. They want players to be able to take the watering can and try it on everything, even the dog (which I did, and I was quite amused at the result).

From my time with the game, it's clear that this design goal underlies every part of the game. In this way, it's much more like an old-school adventure game than a roguelike such as Rogue Legacy. Just like adventure games, Minit wants you to take items and bash them against each other, and to wander blindly in the dark (literally, in this case) until you figure out how to unlock a door, or where a specific item is.

I was particularly impressed with the fact that, in spite of its time limit, playing Minit actually felt relaxing. I fell into a sort of routine, dying and then restarting and continuing my exploration where I left off. The loop is so fast, and respawning so easy, that it doesn't feel frustrating to die. Nor does it feel like you've lost in any way or that you're losing progress. Instead, the time constraint forces you to be more deliberate, efficient, and innovative. You can't really solve the puzzles of Minit by brute force, because you're never given enough time. With its beautiful art style and soundtrack, Minit was laid-back enough to keep me from ever getting frustrated.

Minit was one of my biggest surprises of E3 2017, and I can't wait to explore it more when it comes out later this year. Keep it on your radar--it's shaping up to be a delight to play.

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Alex Newhouse

I'm a news guy, a student of international relations, and I've put way too many hours into Steep.

E3 2017

The Electronic Entertainment Expo returns on June 10. Watch press conferences and tune in for the GameSpot stage shows!
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