There are few genres that are able to paint a picture with just their name, but “bullet hell” is certainly one of them. It evokes imagery of bullets as far as the eye can see and a player who is concentrating on the game as if their life depended on it. The genre is known for being stressful and that is what makes Minutes, an accessible, unique re-imagining of the genre as a whole, such a pleasant surprise. The Red Phantom Games-developed title manages to do a lot within the set framework of bullet hell games by stripping away abilities and forcing the player to focus on a few key tasks.
One Minute at a Time
Minutes throws away one of the core fundamentals of a shooter – the actual shooting. The game instead has players focus on evasion and setting a high score. In order to achieve a score that will complete a level, the player must control a circle around the map to absorb colored objects while avoiding black objects. If the circle hits a black object a meter within the circle starts to fill up. This will eventually lead to a fail screen if it fills up completely. Each level in the game only lasts one minute which means the game operates at a fast pace and failing a level won’t set back your progress at all.
The core premise to Minutes is simple but there is a lot of depth that is presented as the game progresses. The circle can change size to grow larger and smaller which in turn, affects the score multiplier that’s active. This means that the player wants to be as large as possible when collecting points as to increase their score. Power-ups are also present and can make or break a run. These abilities can only be used one time during a level and do a variety of actions such as healing damage, deploying a protective shield, and triggering a blast that destroys enemies.
Each level also has three optional objectives that completionists can aim for. Two of the objectives reward skillful play for taking no damage and collecting all of the colored objects. The third side goal tasks the player with finding a hidden smiley face in each of the levels. Once the smiley face is found, the player must tap it using the Vita’s touchscreen or the DualShock 4’s touchpad. This adds an extra layer of concentration into the mix and only the best of players will be able to accomplish all of these additional goals.
Despite being largely influenced by the bullet hell genre, Minutes is not a difficult game to finish. In fact, the game only offers up a real challenge for those that want to reach all of the high score milestones and fill out the optional objectives. The game does do a good job of giving players an incentive for gaining a high score as upgraded power-ups are unlocked by beating enough of the game’s high score targets.
Time is Valuable
The most disappointing aspect of Minutes is how the game can be completed within one or two sittings. While it does make sense for the game to end after an hour’s worth of levels, the final level doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. Luckily, the game has a lot of replay value so the fun is just starting after you finish level 60. A lot of the score milestones are impossible the first time you play through the levels. Players are meant to go back to these initial levels once new abilities open up more point achieving opportunities. A daily challenge mode and leaderboards for each level, help ensure that the game has legs.
While the core gameplay is fun and addicting, perhaps the most impressive part of the game is its audio and visual flair. Minutes features a stylish aesthetic with levels that consistently look different throughout. An upbeat, high energy soundtrack full of electronic music is also present which had this reviewer tapping his feet along with the music during the entire play-through.
Both the PS4 and Vita version of Minutes run well although the game does seem a better fit for Sony’s handheld. This is largely due to the game’s one minute long levels and short nature. Thankfully, the game is cross-buy and offers up cross-save functionality so players can continue their progress on whatever device they want to.
It’s Always a Good Time
There is a lot to like about Minutes and its most egregious flaw is that it ends so soon. Thankfully, due to daily challenges and multiple goals in each level, Minutes has a lot of replay value that helps the game justify its price-point. Red Phantom Games has managed to put an interesting spin on a genre that has fallen in popularity. While it may not be the title to bring bullet hell shooters back to prominence, it has delivered enough interesting ideas to be worth the time to anyone looking for a pick-up and play title.
Review code for Minutes provided by publisher. Reviewed on both PS4 and Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.