My #DiscoverIndies choice for the month of February is Minaurs. It is a strategy and puzzle game developed by IIIDA Interactive. It is available on Steam for $5.99. This review was conducted by Joseph Pugh.
Minaurs is a cute game with a lot of hidden depth and complexity. You help guide a little Minaur in a quest to find and rescue other Minaurs. You do this by mining out a pathway for the little guy to safely traverse the randomly generated levels. The Minaur isn’t controlled directly., it wanders around in a manner akin to the old lemming’s games.
When the Minaur bumps into a wall, it turns around and walks the other way. But the game is actually far more complex than just that. In fact, I almost dismissed the game early on because it doesn’t do a very good job of actually informing you how to play with its many systems.
The UI is icon based and does not feature tooltips of any kind. It takes a bit of time to figure out what each one does, what skills are, and what the game expects from you. If you can stick with it, you will be rewarded with a meaty and clever game experience.
You unlock a number of worlds and each one has its own quirks, wildlife, and hazards. On each world, you will be tasked with rescuing Minaurs. You will also be attempting to acquire resources and skill points while completing challenges to increase your little critters attributes. At the same time, you will want to avoid failures that may trigger and give your Minaur weaknesses.
Each level has a number of hazards and creatures, and these interact with each other and your Minaur in different ways. Your creature has a rechargeable shield, and you have energy that replenishes over time. If the shield is expended from damage, the Minaur uses up energy to keep itself in good health. Run out of both and it faints.
You also use the same energy to actually mine the walls ceilings and floors. Think of each level as a number of squares, you cant mine inside the squares that your Minaur or other creature occupy.
In addition to keeping the little fella safe, you have to be careful about accidentally boxing it in. Or you will have to leave your current expedition, which forces you to give up any acquired resources and it cost you some prestige unless you have a skill that can get you out of that jam. You really have to plan your moves in advance.
You get a number of challenges to complete that grant you resources, skill points, and prestige. Skills become available to purchase at higher amounts of prestige. You can buy and upgrade these with skill points. Skills are another layer of strategy you can employ. They can be as simple as making your Minaur turnaround, or more significant abilities like becoming immune to hazards for a limited amount of time.
Many challenges grant you prestige, these can anything from mining resources or gathering up loot bags from specific creatures. Failures will actually remove prestige. These can be actions such as letting your Minaur get struck by lightning so many times, getting mauled by creatures too often or wasting resources.
The interaction between the hazards, creatures and your Minaurs skills is what really sells the experience. Water can be used to soften falls for your little critter, but if you activate a gas vent nearby, it will turn the water to acid in addition to choking nearby creatures. Though lava can be doused with water for example.
Each creature has its own traits and weaknesses, and you can even pit some species against each other. Some will block your Minaurs path, scare it, attack it or even fly away with it. You will have to figure out how to navigate around or destroy them. Taking them down can be worthwhile as they drop resources and some challenges require your Minaur to pick up loot bags of certain species.
Its design is exceptionally clever and it requires the player to think and plan outside of the box to complete the expedition. I really like the variety of hazards, creatures, and skills. The game has a strange and earthy, but charming visual style. It is certainly worth the price at $5.99 and I recommend giving it a try. Just give yourself around an hour to play around and learn all the various functions and icons first.