Minit is an adventure with a twist. Your journey starts with your cute little duck-looking character leaving its tiny home and venturing into a countryside fraught with danger. The game’s black-and-white world has an archaic aesthetic that resembles the first Zelda played on an original Macintosh, a retro style that stands out amid all the 8- and 16-bit tributes we’ve seen over the last decade. You’ll quickly find a sword, and kill some crabs, and perhaps talk to a friendly NPC or two. And then, after a minute, your character automatically dies, and you’ll press a button to continue.
Minit is an adventure with a twist. After that first death you wake up back in the same house. If you got the sword during that first life, you’ll still have it now. In fact anything you accomplished in your previous life will persist into this new one, although whatever enemies you killed or bushes you chopped up will be back like nothing happened. Now that you don’t need to spend time finding that sword you can get a little bit farther, maybe visiting a bar with two people who need help, or discovering a locked lighthouse on the game’s southwestern shore. These little puzzles will need to be solved to keep moving throughout the game. And then, after a minute, your character dies, and you’ll press a button to continue.
Minit is an adventure with a twist. Now you know to sprint out of that house and head straight to whatever problem you have to figure out. In one minute you might have just enough time to find the key that unlocks that lighthouse, or to help the bartender with his simple task. If you’ve already done both of those, you can use that minute to push out farther and see what else this world has to offer. New NPCs with new problems await, along with new enemies with new patterns and attacks. You might even find a new home that you can start from whenever your time runs out. And then, after a minute, you die, and you press that button, and you start again from the trailer or hotel you found on your last run.
Minit is an adventure with a twist, but you don’t have time to think about that right now. You have to move as fast as possible, cutting the tightest, straightest possible line between you and your new goal, running past the enemies and swiping your sword at the perfect moment to cut down that tree that blocks your path, because by the time you get to the screen you’re headed to you’ll only have twenty seconds left before you have to start again. If you’re focused and know exactly what you have to do you might help that critter find his lost credit card, or convince the animal hiding in the trees to return to the hotel whose pool you have to visit in order to get the flippers that will let you walk through water. There’s no time for lollygagging now because you know that, after a minute, you’ll die, and press a button, and start again, and again, and again.
Minit is an adventure with a twist and also a critique of capital split up into tiny bite-sized chunks and told through adorable animals in a sparsely drawn fantasy land. After enough stop and start minutes you’ll realize a factory is running roughshod over this place, polluting the land and working some of its employees to the bone while firing others whose jobs can now be done by machines. Behind it all is a maniacal manager prioritizing productivity over all else. After all these minutes and all these lives the true story reveals itself, and to reach the end you have to collect item after item, life after life, to eventually have the skills necessary to grind the factory to a halt. Even after realizing this it’ll take many minutes and many lives to finish everything you know you need to do, tiny bits of incremental progress in-between passages of rote, mundane, repetitive busy work. If it starts to feel like a job, well, maybe that’s the game’s point. The factory is Minit itself, its employees all of us who play the game, and its dictatorial boss the developers who put us through these paces again and again and again in hopes of the smallest iota of progress. Like the unending and uncaring work shifts that eat up our days until we die, we expend most of our vital energy redoing the same soul-killing nonsense over and over. It is one of the most effective metaphors for the exploitation of the working class seen in videogames. The minutes pass, we experience multiple tiny deaths every day doing the job we’re expected to do. And we press a button, and we do it again.
Minit is an adventure with a twist—an adventure that turns into work, and a twist that turns into as much of an anchor as any unfulfilling day job.
Minit was developed by JW, Kitty, Jukio and Dom, and published by Devolver Digital. Our review is based on the PlayStation 4 version. It is also available for the Xbox One and PC.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.