Review – Minabo: A Walk Through Life
Is there such a thing as “too much creativity”? Can a game suffer from being way too out there in its premise and execution? We constantly complain about how the AAA spectrum is generic, full of repeated ideas in order to appeal to the biggest common denominator possible, and how the indiesphere is where creativity and neat ideas blossom, but I’m here today to showcase a textbook example of an indie game being so far out there to the point of becoming boring and pointless. This is the sad story of Minabo: A Walk Through Life.
Picture a weird premise for a game. C’mon, I’ll give you a minute. Alright, you’re done? Well, no matter what the hell you came up with in your mind, Minabo: A Walk Through Life is weirder. The game is a side-scrolling, slice-of-life, social interaction simulator featuring sentient turnips with limbs. You control a turnip from the moment it rises from the ground, up until its demise. The date of said demise depends on the player’s ability to keep it alive. You may be wondering if we need to do that by, I dunno, feeding it and stuff. Nope. As it seems, turnips feed on social interactions with other turnips.
All you do in Minabo: A Walk Through Life is walk to the right and interact with a bunch of turnips in order to fill your three social needs meters. At times, when you’re a little kid turnip, all you’ll really want is to feel loved by your family. When you’re a hormone-filled (I assume) teenage turnip, you may want to make lots of friends. When you grow older, you might want to settle down, meet a special someone and have baby turnips of your own. Your survival largely depends on how well you balance these meters and needs.
Once more, you do all of this on a side-scrolling manner. Your life is represented as a straight line, which is probably a metaphor for something. Something I just couldn’t be bothered to vibe with, because here’s the kicker: Minabo‘s gameplay loop is boring and pointless.
What we have here is basically the most boring aspect of any chapter in The Sims franchise (keeping the meters at the highest levels possible), but dumbed down and focused on dealing with how utterly needy your turnip is. It needs to be loved, included in groups, and so on, all in this pointless side-scrolling plain. This is what you do: you reach a nearby turnip, check what kind of social meter you need to improve, press the appropriate button, and hope for the best. There might be a small meter that showcases the chances of each outcome, but there’s no strategy involved. Press a button, that’s it. Sometimes you’ll get a message saying you got what you wanted. Other times, you’ll get a negative reaction, and come closer to your demise. Because you’re that thin-skinned.
Finally, to add insult to injury, you don’t move around with a d-pad, or an analog stick. You do that by holding down the X button. Yep, the X button, as if you were accelerating your turnip like an unreliable Pontiac. The damn plant even accelerates as slowly as an old Pontiac. Minabo‘s button placement and controls make no sense, and we’re talking about a game where you use like half a dozen buttons at the most. So not only is the game a surefire borefest, but it controls weirdly as well.
I will try to end this review on a slightly positive note by saying that, despite being pointless, Minabo isn’t exactly ugly to look at. It’s all hand-drawn, cute, and wholesome as hell. Some valiant effort has been put in the game’s visuals, even though some facial expressions make the turnips look more like reject designs from Lovecraft’s unpublished book for toddlers. The music isn’t terrible, either. Not good, but not terrible. There are some Sims-esque voice clips that are cute at first, but get tiresome after a while. The sound mixing is overly loud, on the other hand. Make sure to turn it down upon booting the game up.
At the end of it, I couldn’t help but just constantly ask myself, “what’s the point of all this?” I will never not appreciate a developer for coming up with a unique premise for a game, but make it fun, or at least moderately coherent for it to justify its existence as a piece of entertainment. Minabo: A Walk Through Life isn’t broken, nor is it poorly made. It’s a well-put game in the technical sense. On the design side of things, this is pointless. I wasn’t having fun with it, I was constantly bored and wondering if could just replay The Sims 2 instead.
The hand-drawn art style is Minabo‘s highlight, even though some of the characters that show up onscreen look like eldritch horrors.
A pointless side-scrolling romp through the life of a socially needy turnip. Hold down the X button to move and then attempt to make social interactions with whoever shows up onscreen. Just why.
The music is a bit repetitive, but it’s not terrible. There are some Sims-esque voice clips that are cute at first, but get tiresome after a while. The sound mixing is overly loud, on the other hand. Make sure to tone it down upon booting the game up.
Fun Factor: 3.0
The novelty wore off in the first few seconds. I am still trying to understand the purpose and the point behind this game.
Final Verdict: 4.5
Minabo: A Walk Through Life is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Minabo: A Walk Through Life was provided by the publisher.