Minute of Islands desperately wants to be a deep and meaningful tale, but its lack of challenge doesn’t manage to overcome its abundance of charm.
Minute of Islands is basically a cartoon that you can play. Its gorgeous art style is complemented by a mellow soundtrack and gameplay that is never too challenging. It’s a very chilled-out experience, but is it any good?
In Minute of Islands, you play as Mo, a young girl who sets off to unlock her forgotten memories to figure out what has happened to her island home. On the way, you must solve puzzles, move bits around, and do the occasional bit of platforming, though none of these challenges are actually challenging.
Your task is to purge a strange yellow fungus from the island as it has started to pollute the environment and poison the inhabitants, including the 4 large giants who dwell underground. Normally they would help to keep the islands safe, but as the fungus took hold it made swift work of whatever it was they were doing underground to keep you safe.
As you visit each island your main job is to find and activate the purifiers that will purge the fungus from the land, by first finding them before turning them on. You do this by using the Omni-Switch, a multi-purpose staff also serves as your compass, showing you where to go next should you get stuck – simply pull it out and let it point you in the right direction. This is a simple method, but it is incredibly useful, particularly for some of the underground sections.
As you explore each island you unlock memories, either by talking to characters or discovering them as you poke about. The game itself is quite linear, so I didn’t really struggle to find any of them during my playthrough, but often they don’t really add anything more to the experience.
Each memory hints at your forgotten past (some more than others) as you try to piece together what has happened to you and your neighbours. The whole mystery is what ties everything together – what exactly is going on? Where did the fungus come from? These mysteries are all laid out from the beginning, but I didn’t feel invested in any of them.
Minute of Islands tries hard to be ambiguous and make these mysteries out to be some big dilemma with Mo at the core, but the mystery feels offset by the games slow and mellow pace. There is no urgency or danger to talk about, and so any pace is lost as you plod your way through each island.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I did enjoy the slightly slower pace, but at the same time I didn’t feel the urge to bust a gut to rush through each section in order to find out what exactly was going on, which left Minute of Islands feeling slightly unbalanced as a result.
As for the gameplay, Minute of Islands won’t offer you too much of a challenge. Mo can run and jump, even push and pull certain objects, and the controls feel responsive and react well to each situation that you find yourself in.
The real stand out here is the art style – Minute of Islands is gorgeous, and it is magnificent throughout. The game seamlessly blends from cutscene to gameplay, and see Mo move through the world is exactly like watching a cartoon, with each scene perfectly animated and captured. My only complaint was that sometimes areas felt too busy meaning I didn’t feel I truly appreciated each one as I ran past on my hunt for the next purifier.
While Minute of Islands is definitely a feast for the eyes, overall I’m not too sure how I felt about the whole experience. It is by no stretch a difficult game as the puzzles aren’t too taxing and the platform sections are fairly simple, with no enemies or hazards to worry about. I was able to sit down and reach the end in 2 sittings, but it feels like it is trying way too hard to be this deep, meaningful experience that just didn’t grip me in any way. Some might think I am obtuse or miss the obvious, but by the time the ending came around, I was still in the dark as to what was going on. I can get subtlety and nuance, but I feel like I’ve missed something on my first playthrough.
Does that mean I am likely to go through and play Minute of Islands again? Probably not. Although a fairly short experience and it is definitely not a game I regret playing, it is not something I feel the need to play again. For all its beauty, Minute of Islands definitely feels like more of a one night stand.
Minute of Islands PS5, PS4 Review
- Overall - Good - 6/106/10
If you enjoy simple, calming platformers, Minute of Islands should be right up your street as Mario it is not. What it does, it does well, but in trying to be deep and meaningful it all feels a little bit short and shallow. Gorgeous to look at and quick to play, this is maybe one for the art critics and those who like their games with something to say - even if I missed what exactly that was.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using PS5.