Minutes takes everything that you love about modern AAA games – the cutscenes, the explosions, the endless miles to drive/sprint/fly to the next mission marker, and strips them all away until we are left with what could be classed as pure gameplay. There is no story, no characters to interact with and definitely no tacked on extras because the men in the suits thought it would help improve sales.
What you do get with Minutes is everything that a lot of people look for in a game – you will move, collect items, avoid enemies, react, decide between risk and reward, upgrade your abilities and constantly plan your next attempt.
In Minutes you control a circle that you will move around the screen with the analogue stick attempting to collect coloured shapes. These shapes come in various forms and collecting these is crucial to attaining a high score in the game. There will also be dark shapes that fly around the screen at the same time as the coloured shapes. If you come into contact with these you will damage your circle, with too many hits ‘killing’ you.
You can change the size of your circle (with more sizes unlocking as you progress through the game’s sixty levels) using the Left and Right triggers and doing so will increase/reduce the amount of points you earn whilst collecting the light shapes. The smaller your circle is, the easier it will be for you to dart around the screen avoiding the dark shapes but the smaller your reward will be for collecting the lighter colours. This is a great dynamic, allowing for you to either settle for a lower score, or to sacrifice safety and go all out, meaning that at times I had to make some tactical decisions in order to gain the score needed to succeed.
Of course you can be brave and go big but chances are before long you will meet your doom, so alternating between the different sizes is the best way to both maximise your points tally and ensure your survival. Your circle will fill up with a dark square each time it comes into contact with a dark shape. Starting off small this square will grow until the circle can no longer contain it and burst, prematurely ending the round. You will need pixel-perfect precision to progress and I found that although I did die frequently on some stages, I kept replaying the missions until I could progress due to the addictive nature of the game.
The game is called Minutes because each of the sixty stages lasts exactly one minute. Making it through each stage in one piece is the first thing you will need to master but to ultimately progress you will need to meet certain score requirements within the 60 seconds, with additional medals available for taking no damage or not missing a light shape for example.
As you progress through the levels, you will notice that the shapes that you will need to collect will vary. Starting off as simple lines that fly horizontally or diagonally along the screen, they will become shape-shifting objects that will change from light to dark as they move towards you or multi-coloured snowflake-like shapes that will take some careful navigation to earn maximum points.
Although intuitive, I did at times find the gameplay to become repetitive. Minutes can at times be punishingly difficult – mainly when trying to earn a perfect run or attempting to achieve the maximum score on a level, but this can mean that you will play the same level over and over until you can either progress to the next level or you give up and decide to come back to it later on.
Playing through the levels and achieving a set number of medals will unlock you a power-up. The game tells you how many medals off the next power-up you are and each one will add additional features to your circle. These are distributed evenly across the levels, ensuring that you will learn a new mechanic once you get used to the previous power-up. I found that this meant that I was always learning a new way to play, from the ability to reduce the dark square that is threatening your circle to the power that allows you to send a shockwave out that will obliterate nearby, harmful shapes.
In addition to the sixty missions, Minutes has a Daily Challenge that is very similar to the one that is present in OlliOlli. Each day a randomly generated level is available for you to play, with unlimited practice runs available. As soon as you decide to go for glory though, you will only get one chance to try and achieve the highest score you can in a battle to top the online leaderboards and earn yourself bragging rights.
As well as boasting great gameplay, Minutes looks fantastic. It is testament to Red Phantom Games (a one-man developer) that the game looks so good. With simple yet crisp and colourful visuals that stand out on the PlayStation Vita, Minutes is easy on the eye with a soundtrack that is just as easy on the ear. Each of the minute long missions is accompanied by a dance track that sutures you into the moment with thumping beats.
Although Minutes is a short game that can be picked up and played in, well, minutes, it is one that will take hours to fully master and achieve everything on offer. That Richard Ogden, the man behind Red Phantom Games, has created this awesome ‘abstract action’ game by himself is something that anyone would be proud of and that everyone who appreciates games for what they are should try!