You wake up in your little house. There’s a little dog. And a timer, counting down sixty seconds. Shit! Time to get going. You stumble out into a sprawling, monochrome map. North? West? One way is blocked. Thirty seconds. You find a lighthouse. You climb up, as the timer ticks down. As the seconds slip away, you find an important quest item. Ding! Sixty seconds done.
You wake up in your little house. There’s a dog… and oh yeah, you have that quest item now. So you use this run to explore a new area or use your new ability.
That’s Minit, or, the core loop of Minit. It looks and feels like an indie, black-and-white 2D Zelda, with a touch of speedrunning mystique. It plays like the best moments of those games: the flow state of exploration, discovery, and progress compressed into powerful little sixty-second chunks. You are never not exploring, discovering something new, or trying to get to something you saw earlier, now that you have X item.
You’re always moving as fast as your little sprite legs can carry you.
It’s important to note, though, that Minit never felt too stressful for me, despite the constant timer. I typically hate timers in games—and especially Zelda games, where that constant ticking of a flipped switch or opened eye panel means you need to haul Link’s ass to whatever door or second switch you just activated. Minit is fast-paced by nature, but I rarely, if ever, felt like a door got shut in my face. If something didn’t work on one sixty-second run, it was always ok to just try it again. I was never wasting time in Minit, and therein lies its core brilliance.
Because nothing you need to do exceeds that sixty-second limit, each run feels valuable and meaningful. And there’s something fun to do or interesting to explore on every screen.
It would’ve been very, very easy to mess this up. I was worried, especially as the map essentially doubled in complexity, that the gimmick would show wear. That Minit would give me a ninety-second problem to solve in a sixty-second window. And I did get stuck one point towards the end of the game (it involves a sort of final puzzle, but I’m not spoiling anything), and lost more than a few runs to figuring out exactly what the hell to do to progress.
That was my one major frustration with Minit—that and a late-game battle that had me seeing stars when I looked away from the screen, courtesy a little too much monochrome flashing. A little bit more telegraphing in that final puzzle, and a little less screen flash, would’ve made my five-ish hours with Minit essentially flawless.
Intelligent scope has a lot to do with it—the time limit still keeps you from wasting hours doing the wrong thing, unless you get stuck, well, more than sixty runs in a row. This world was designed to be eminently explorable—essentially knowable—in a short time frame. And what a world it is, a far quirkier take on the tropes, with a sandy desert home to a mysterious temple, a funky sneaker store, and a pile of far-off ruins alike. Instead of Ganon, there’s an evil sword factory baron. And your equipment outside of the classic sword is a fun bundle of mischief: flippers to allow you to swim, a cup of coffee that helps with an early quest, a camera that allows you to snap screens to your heart’s desire.
This is part of what I mean when I say it carries a tiny bit of speedrunning mystique—it’s not just the pace, but the playfulness with form. The fact that the barriers between biomes seem constructed of duct tape and glue feels a little like how top speedrunners skip sections of games and twist the whole world to their will. That you can stop the timer at any time and instantly reset to your last safehouse feels tailor-made for this kind of play.
I can’t wait to see speedruns of Minit—to see how talented players will spin an entire game designed around these 60-second chunks to their desires. This game was practically designed to be broken, in the most interesting and unexpected ways.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/bjp7vm/minit-live-die-repeat-zelda