Please note: We were provided a review copy from Dangen Entertainment in return for a fair and honest review
Blood splatters the walls. Corpses line the paths. The living are so few and far between, that they may as well not exist.
Welcome to Ramezia, in the time of the Fourth Witch War. Heretics have begun a mysterious ceremony, sealing off the castle, and the devout Sisters Semilla and Fran are tasked with saving the city and purging the sinners. You – in the place of Sister Semilla – must make your way through the dangerous, lonely wreckage, saving who you can and destroying those who have chosen to walk the path of evil. As you move forward, Sister Fran can comment and offer limited suggestions.
It’s a dark and heavy story, though also fascinating. Other characters are rare, and the danger of trust is always over the player’s head. A colourful cast of characters – and some surprising betrayals – awaits you as you continue. You’ll find a bit more story here than in Momodora, but it never detracts from the action-platformer focus, allowing you to keep moving without the constant need to scroll through more dialogue.
The spiritual successor to Momodora, Minoria clearly shares some connections, but sets itself apart as a new game in its own universe. Lovers of Momodora should find plenty to love here, but anyone new to rdein and Bombservice’s work won’t feel too lost. In the game’s store page, rdein talks about the breath of fresh air that Minoria was, and feelings about the game’s universe. You can definitely feel the passion and care that went into the game, and while I usually try to give a comprehensive breakdown of pros and cons without getting too attached, I honestly just found myself falling in love the more I played. This was a game I constantly wanted to share – in fact, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the embargo date so that I can tell everyone to get it.
Like any metroidvania game, your biggest task is to explore the area. As you continue the story, you’ll find new keys and unlock new pathways. Exploring every corner possible is important – you never know where an item or a secret might be hidden. I’d say this aspect of Minoria is fairly standard and won’t hold too many surprises to anyone used to this type of game. However, there is quite a bit that I feel sets Minoria apart from a sea of metroidvania titles.
To be honest, Minoria was the one game I’ve been looking forward to the most this summer – I fell in love with Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, and knowing there was something fresh and new on the horizon was really exciting. Needless to say, I installed it the moment I got my key, and eagerly jumped in, making my way through the game’s first area. “I love it!” I thought, as I examined the beautifully detailed rooms, dodged behind enemies, and explored. I jumped into the first story boss excitedly, ready to see what fate was in store for her… and then I died. No big deal – just try again right?
Maybe one more time…
Let’s take a moment to talk about difficulty. Maybe Minoria is difficult. Maybe I’m just bad. Now… it might seem like I’m getting ready to complain, but honestly I think Minoria is an amazing example of difficulty done right. Too often, games seem to confuse chaos with difficulty or make challenges just to be frustrating, instead of to be smart or interesting. To move forward in Minoria, players will have to understand their enemies and react appropriately. From the start, Semilla has a parry and dodge that can be used regardless of weapon. She’ll also unlock special attacks and a variety of incense – some are passive, and some are active, providing access to healing, magical attacks, or even damage increases. While you can’t brute force your way through bosses, like in some games, you do have all the tools you need to fight and defend. You just have to be ready to learn and do so wisely.
The game doesn’t feature the traditional easy/normal/hard setting, so I’d been relying on my dodge abilities to get me through, and found myself sorely lacking when it came to the first boss. What it does have is a leveling system. As far as I could tell, fights are still doable without significant leveling. I also noticed that leveling only provides significant boosts to your attack – your defense stats will go up, but in much smaller amounts (1 point compared to 3 for attack). As a result, even if you level, you’ll still need to understand the game’s mechanics – the main point will still be to not get hit if you can avoid it. What I found really refreshing was that leveling wasn’t the long, arduous grind I was expecting. The description billed the level up system as a way for players to adjust their difficulty level – and that feels kind of accurate. In order to get past the first boss a little more painlessly, I just grinded out some exp by exploring or reclearing areas – it was fairly quick and easy, making it possible to ease up the difficulty while still requiring just a little work on my part. Save points aren’t around every corner, but they are fairly common – allowing the player to not spend too much time redoing areas if they die.
Instead of fights feeling endlessly frustrating, the challenge felt good to complete. I really enjoyed having to learn what to do next, and adjusting as I moved through the game. Challenge can be a very good thing when done right – Minoria doesnt need you to be lucky or smash buttons. It just needs you to pay attention and practice.
Control-wise, Minoria actually feels good to play. The inputs make sense to any longtime player of platformers or metroidvania, and movement is fast and fluid. Dodging is a must, even with smaller enemies, and the player will find themselves relying on quick, precise movements. As areas offer a small variety of enemies, you’ll quickly learn which ones attack which ways, and how to react to them. New areas come with new challenges, but it’s never overwhelming or impossible. The end result is a fluid, fast-paced platformer with solid controls and intuitive gameplay.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Minoria is the stunning artwork. Where Momodora featured a charming and nostalgic platformer aesthetic that felt like home for those of us who grew up on NES or SNES, Minoria boasts a combination of hand-painted art and cel shading. It’s like looking at a lovely, dark storybook or playing a painting. Despite the somber, grim story and despite the darkness surrounding the world, the game is absolutely lovely. I loved Momodora’s graphics as well, but the nostalgic 80s/90s feel in graphics is something that’s pretty common and popular now. Minoria’s art sets it apart with a stunningly unique aesthetic.
The second thing you’ll notice – or at least the second thing I noticed – is the game’s incredible atmosphere. As you adventure through your first area – the Cathedral – you’ll listen to a somber, soft instrumental theme. In another setting, it might be calming… yet against the bloodshed and death that surrounds Sister Semilla, the music creates a haunting atmosphere of sadness, regret, and reflection. Occasionally you’ll find evidence of the people who used to live there – details about the world, a desperate note from a young woman who’s given in to sin, a library that offers sanctuary…The blood painting the walls never is enough to fully detract from the beauty of the area, either. I felt like I was exploring a place that used to be peaceful and happy.
The horror of death and the creatures inside the area simply felt…. depressing. In the best way possible, of course (except the mercy cellar. We won’t talk about the creepy feeling you get when you first stumble across the mercy cellar…). It also made me jump more than once when the lonely solemnness was broken by an enemy breaking through a tall cathedral window or rushing from the edge of the garden wall. It was so easy to become immersed in the loneliness, and forget that enemies were lurking around every corner.
Overall, I’d highly recommend Minoria to anyone who enjoyed Momodora or just enjoys metroidvania titles in particular. I did find myself blindsided by the huge jump in difficulty between regular monsters and bosses, and was a little dismayed when I triumphantly destroyed one boss just to find the next smashing me into a pulp of disappointment and failure, but I find it really hard to dock the game points for this – even when I was failing, I could see there were mechanics and movements that I had to learn better. It’s definitely most appropriate for players who aren’t afraid of a little effort and multiple tries, but it’s never chaotically impossible. It’s also stunningly immersive for a 2D platformer, and a lovely experience that I think is worth anyone’s time.
Want to play it? You can pick up Minoria Tuesday, August 27th, on PC for $19.99!