Control an army of minions in this fun, but short, puzzle platformer based on the animated film of the same name.
I have to hand it to Namco (and Universal). Most movie tie-in games rarely offer anything but a mediocre experience. Often giving you, the player, a lite on gameplay version of the film’s story. With Despicable Me though, Namco have created a spin-off of sorts. Placing you in control of the secondary characters from the movie, the minions.
It still has a strong whiff of promotional about it, offering you extras in the from of trailers and stills from the movie. But you can easily ignore this and just have fun with the game. As I mentioned above, the game puts you in control of the Minions of the story. These odd creatures work for the film’s lead charted Gru, an evil genius. It is your job to put his minions through their paces in a series of training missions. These take the form of platform based puzzles where you must get several of the plucky minions to the level exit. Using inventions created by Gru’s resident mad scientist you can manipulate them and the environments in various ways until you open up the correct path and the way out. Get just one of the little guys successfully to the exit and you’ll move on to the next level.
Each level consists of a 2.5D vertical area, with two or more minions dotted around it. Levers and buttons can be triggered by placing minions on them to access blocked areas or moving platforms, sometimes freeing another contained minion. Tapping on any minion will give you control of him, and with a tap anywhere on the screen, he will move to that spot (if accessible). Various potions and/or gadgets can be picked up and used by the minion holding it. For example, a grappling hook allows minions to access areas out of reach, a rocket launcher allows minions to break blocked off areas, and a freeze ray can freeze hot lava allowing the minions to cross un-harmed. You can also freeze other minions to create platforms. Potions such as the anti gravity potion temporally gives the minions the ability to float to un-accessible areas, and cinnamon buns give the minions a quick burst of speed, handy when trying to avoid clashing machinery. Potions work automatically, but for gadgets a small thought bubbles appears above the minions head illustrating the selected gadget. To use you tap on the bubble and a aiming laser appears on screen which you can drag to aim, then hit the fire button to unleash. The touch controls are intuitive and very easy to use, however I found the tilt controls for directing your floating minions to be highly frustrating. For reasons unknown, the controls seem to be completely backward, with you tilting right to go left and visa versa. On the iPad it seems worse, especially if you tilt too far and the games orientation flips to match the iPad’s.
There many games like this on the AppStore. The excellent ‘The Package’ is a prime example of this type of game. Minion Mania does a good job, with some challenging puzzles, bright and colourful graphics and fun sound effects, but unfortunately is let down by a short gameplay experience. It comes with just 20 levels and these can be breezed through in a few hours. Whether Namco intend to release more levels, we’re not sure, but it’s a big ask to expect gamers to plonk down seven bucks for just a handful of levels. Games based on a movie licence seem to expect the higher price, but for such a new and un-known licence it’s a little too much to ask.
This version of the game is the so-called HD version. It’s a whole two bucks more than the iPhone version, but is exactly the same game. The gameplay works just as well on the iPhone version, despite the smaller play area and to be honest does not look any better on the iPad. Despite some of the iPad art looking crisper in the menu’s and title screen, the game graphics themselves don’t look HD at all. The models have been rezzed up slightly, but the textures are highly pixelated and look to be lifted directly from the iPhone version without being optimised.
If you are looking for a good platform puzzler, mixing elements of games such as Lemmings and physics games like Enigmo, then Despicable Me: Minion Mania does have its good moments. But you may feel short changed by the relatively short playtime. If you must get it, then I recommend buying the iPhone version instead and save yourself two bucks.