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Beyond the Spiral: Minimum

Like just about every other boy in the world, I loved playing with Lego as a child. I still like them. And that might just be why the really unusual but completely addictive and just darn fun Minimum had me playing well into the night.

At its core, Minimum is a team-based, third-person shooter with three distinct game modes. Combatants in the game are represented by blocky, almost voxel-like, humanoids constructed of…well…they look like Lego blocks. Their weapons and armor look like they came straight out of a box of Lego as well. It’s an extremely unique look that makes the game visually unique and strangely captivating.

Two of the three game modes are relatively standard. A game like this wouldn’t be complete without a Team Deathmatch mode, and a cooperative Horde-style mode (in which players fight off waves of increasingly difficult AI opponents) is a welcome change from the constant PvP. Where this game really blows the doors off is Titan mode.

minimum titans

In Titan mode, two teams of five players square off in an effort to support their Titan, a lumbering, AI-controlled giant, as it trundles ominously towards a Rock-Em Sock-Em Robot-style battle with the enemy Titan. Once the Titans clash, players can assist their team’s Titan by firing on the enemy. These duels become a very satisfyingly frantic clash of forces in which players must value the risk versus reward of firing on the enemy Titan or protecting themselves from the enemy players.

Once one Titan emerges victorious, it trudges on towards the enemy base. On the way it must destroy walls and get by defensive turrets before reaching the enemy team’s power core and smashing it. During this march to victory, the other side is free to fire on that Titan in an attempt to destroy it. Should both Titans be ultimately destroyed, they respawn again after a few minutes during which the players can gather resources in an attempt to increase their Titan’s power. Titan mode consumed much of my evening and had me wishing it was Friday night…because then I could’ve stayed up until 2:00 AM playing more.

The core shooter elements of Minimum are unique and functional, but might not appeal to everyone. The capable gunplay and swordplay in this game aren’t going to have AAA team-based shooters looking over their shoulders, but it’s still a lot of fun. The blocky artistic style might not be appeal to every shooter fan, but I think it’s the blocky and ‘constructable’ (for lack of a better word) appearance of the characters and environment that lead us to the second element of the game that really grabbed me: crafting.

A starting player is given access to a basic arsenal of weapons and armor pieces, but can quickly unlock and craft new items to help them on the field of battle. Upon destroying an enemy player or titan, the area is littered with building blocks of every shape. Gather enough of these and a player might be able to put together a weapon with different abilities or an armor set that increases damage with grenades or decreases incoming damage from swords (oh yeah…did I mention there are katanas?). The armor has a fun look and the crafting system is easy enough to learn. I had a great time gathering the materials for a tactical helmet (that looked much like a military-style cap) which increased my damage with my rifle.

As much as I enjoyed Minimum, there was one facet of the game that had me shaking my head resignedly. Minimum will set you back about $10 on Steam (although it’s on sale until the night of Thursday, January 29, for just $2.50), a not insignificant amount of money. In addition to this cost of admission, Minimum has a cash shop full of skins that are not available unless one is willing to get out the wallet. For a buy-to-play game that is NOT an MMORPG, I feel this pay-to-customize approach is very discouraging.

All told, I would definitely recommend Minimum to fans of competitive shooters. It’s got a very exciting and unusual gameplay mode in Titan, a crafting system that will have you gleefully picking up the pieces of your fallen enemies, and just a plain frantic, fun pace that I found very satisfying. The ESRB has not rated Minimum, but I would rate it a T (appropriate for teens). The violence in the game is very tame, most six year-olds have visited greater horrors upon a makeshift Lego giant than one will see in Minimum, and no adult language or themes are otherwise present. However, gunplay and swordplay are the meat and potatoes of this game, and those forms of conflict resolution are probably better left to slightly older young people. In addition, I found the names of one or two of the other players a bit offensive, although for the most part they were fine. (My mortal enemy was a sniper named PotatoeBandit – I will mash that guy one day.)

If you try Minimum, let us know what you think! We’ll probably be streaming this before too long, and you can always watch my Steam broadcast anytime I’m playing if you have a Steam account (my account name is spiritcaller). We might even give away a copy down the line.

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