Overlord Minions Review
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2:11 PM
Overlord goes to DS in the name of evil, but this one's not good.
I'm definitely a bit of a fan of the Overlord games. Unfortunately I missed out on reviewing Overlord II and Overlord: Dark Legend, but thankfully I managed to grab the new DS edition, Minions.
And I was massively disappointed. This is not Overlord. This is a simple badly-designed Lost Vikings-style puzzle game that just happens to be in the fantasy-spoofing Overlord universe. Without the (fairly) distinctive Minion designs no-one would even know this was an Overlord game. Even the generic Sauron-looking Overlord doesn't actually appear in-game, just as a weird cartoony 'My Little Overlord' on the title screen.
The Overlord isn't actually controlled at all. Minions is all about controlling the - yes, Minions - up to a maximum of four, with each a different colour. Like in the original game, each colour of minion has different abilities. In general Brown is good at fighting, Blue can go over water, Red can go through fire and shoot long-range fireballs and Green can go through toxic gas, turn invisible and fart a lot. At least the "humour" is still the same.
First impressions are not very good, and last impressions are much the same. Even for a DS title Minions looks pretty awful. Dull environments, drab textures, poor character models and a camera that's zoomed in too much (making the green Minion's stealth abilities utterly useless).
Music and sound are almost non-existent, with an endlessly repeating tune playing (thankfully) very quietly in the background and some really pathetic sound effects. Cutscenes are all static images with no voice-acting, which is probably a good thing now I come to think about it, given the quality of the rest of the game.
The game itself is entirely stylus-driven, and the Minions control similarly to Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Touch the screen and the Minion will go there, swipe an object or an enemy and they will interact with or attack it. At least that's the theory.
Once you've swiped an enemy, attacking becomes automated and you're reliant on the Minions to actually hit them, which is something they sometimes simply won't do. It's not particularly satisfying either, watching them repeat the same animation until either their opponent falls over or they do.
Even the movement control is a failure, as the minions have absolutely abysmal path-finding. Controlling more than two of them is a total nightmare, as the slower imp will inevitably get stuck on scenery and will keep running on the spot until you take control and manually free him.
Run across a puddle with the blue minion and any Minions following will jog against the invisible boundary around that puddle for all time. Considering how confining the levels are designed, with lots of angular corners and small areas, this issue is unforgivable as it will occur often.
The main focus of the game is basic puzzle solving. Levels are usually quite small but can span several connected "sections" which you can carry essential objects over, like keys and levers. While most of the puzzles are quite simple, some are actually quite clever, mostly the ones in which the Minions are forcibly split up; which comes as a relief since you no longer have to worry about them getting stuck on something.
Trailing a long line of fart-gas with green Minion Stench from a cracked wall, past some toxic gas, to red minion Blaze who ignites it all with a fireball and blows the wall up is quite satisfying; more so than the combat, anyway. Exploration value is practically nil, with little room to explore and nothing really to find if you do (barring a few pointless treasure chests.)
Every few levels there's a boss fight, and thankfully these are never based on just simply bitch-slapping them to death. There's always some clever way of finishing them off, and while it's usually spelt out for you, pulling it off is much trickier and mostly entertaining. These bosses are the best part of the game, which isn't really saying much.
Overlord Minions feels like a quick, shoddy product. It's all very well that Codemasters wanted to stick the series on every platform, but something has to suffer and it's obviously this one. Even the good points I named above are merely 'okay, 'and only stand out because the rest is so poor.
I know that being bad is encouraged in the Overlord games, but this is taking it too far.