Minit is that most rare of joyful things: A really good idea, done really well.
In Minit you play a little bird-like pixel character who lives in a black and white pixel world, and is cursed with only ever living for a single minute. And yet despite this limitation, it presents a little RPG. HOW?! you ask, in your belligerent way. Hush, I shall tell you.
Presented as a top-down Gameboy-era Zelda-like (I’m no Zelda expert, so you can imagine your own paragraph about a super-sped up Majora’s Mask), your little birdy creature (let’s call them Quack) has sixty seconds to dash out of their house and try to work out what on Earth is going on. And then, after a minute has gone by, drop down dead.
But fortunately they come back to life back in the bed of their house, and has another minute to live. And another, and forever. This might sound immediately frustrating, or indeed too confining, but there are so many smarts at play here that it’s never either. (Apart from when it’s trying to be.) The first big smart thing is, various actions have permanence in the world. On one level you’re certainly appearing to relive the same minute over and over, but on another you’re also able to have some effect on things – found items like a sword and a watering can will always be waiting for you outside your residence, and there are routes that can be changed, characters helped, and so on.
The second big smart thing is wherever you find a bed, you change your rebirth location. So while the world doesn’t expand ever-outward until you forget where you came from, you can find a number of different places from which to start your next minute’s journey.
The consequence of all this is a combination of experimental and planned runs. A minute becomes a surprisingly lengthy period of time once you get the hang of Minit, and yet an agonisingly short one when you’re just trying to reach that last switch and… crap. So you try again, streamlining the run, and get there. And indeed perhaps that switch opens a route that means next time you need not run through the screen of arrow-firing frog-likes, through the woods, and back up and around the pond, but rather go straight over that newly opened bridge.
Once the goals you’ve discovered are completed, it becomes about experimental runs again, finding secret areas, hitting things with a sword to see what happens (always worthwhile on characters as there’s a different gag for every one), and finding the next task that’s going to take every second of a minute to finish.
Very quickly I adjusted to this Groundhog Minute existence, and became very nonchalant about death. Just the press of a button will see the minute terminated early, such that I managed to fit around 80 deaths into the first sixty minutes of play.
The minimalist aesthetic adds very much to the sense of fleeting existence, yet the characters are joyfully created with so few pixels, and I almost immediately stopped noticing it was black and white. My screenshots show otherwise, but my memories of the game are, for some reason, all in colour.
There’s lots to it, even if it’s not the longest game. So many puzzles, challenges, collectibles and details to discover, along with fun chatter and nifty ideas. Sections seem impossible, then suddenly so possible, super-quickly, and whenever you’re stuck somewhere there’s always another unexplored direction to head in, or a previous area you may now be equipped to conquer. It’s very charming, a lot of fun, and perhaps most importantly, executes its central conceit with deftness.