A while back, I reviewed a game called Honest John, a fun if relatively simple little shooting game. Minigore sees the return of the hero from that game (John Gore) and places him in a brand new adventure.
Well, I say "brand new" but really that would be telling a bit of a fib, since Minigore is essentially the same game that's been given some new graphics and sound. Yet, this lick of paint has worked wonders and made an already very good game even more fun.
Playing as John Gore, your task is to rid the land of nasty aliens who are marauding across the country. The basic mode sees John simply having to survive for as long as he can against ever increasing hordes of enemies.
The first thing that strikes you about the game is the slightly odd perspective. It follows the same pattern as Honest John, with the game viewed from above with a slightly isometric perspective. John himself is equally odd with his square head and very angular body. This looks strange at first, but once you get used to it, gives the main character a fun, quirky feeling that perfectly captures the fun gameplay.
The same is true of the attacking aliens which are unbelievably cute. On earlier levels, they look a little bit like the aliens from the film Critters and bounce along with enthusiastic little grunts and other noises. They even come in different sizes, ranging from "awww isn´t it cute" to "Oh crap! That's massive" size. The larger ones even split into smaller ones when shot, meaning you have even more to kill. It's almost a shame to shoot them because they look and sound so cute. But shoot them you must, because if you don't, they will pounce on you and tear you to shreds in a comic book display of blood and violence. Later on, more variety is introduced in the aliens and all of them manage to be cute and menacing at the same time.
There are some nice graphical touches, too. To indicate the passage of time, every so often day becomes night and everything turns dark. During the night time, John carries a flaming torch and can only view the area immediately around him which is lit by the flare of his torch. This is both a clever graphical effect and adds to the gameplay, since you have to be much sharper with your reactions as enemies suddenly appear out of the darkness!
A swelling orchestral score plays throughout the game and is of such high quality that it would not sound out of place in a Hollywood film. As already noted, the little critters squeak and chirrup in a very cute fashion, whilst there are some meaty sound effects to accompany the sounds of John's various weapons.
The icing on the cake, though, is Gore's Duke Nukem-esque quips which come in the form of proper speech. This is both fun and tied to what is happening on screen, so that it feels spontaneous. Approach one of the bigger creatures and John will utter "My God! He's big!" shoot a lot of aliens at once and he'll observe "Hey! I'm pretty good at this!" It really adds to the game and helps you see your on-screen avatar as a "real" person you have to protect, as well making you laugh.
Controls have been very well implemented and there's a choice available. Minigore is a twinstick shooter, giving you two virtual joysticks, one in each bottom corner of the screen. The left stick controls the direction of your movement, the right stick the direction of your fire. If you've never played a twinstick shooter before, using these two independently can be a little tricky to get the hang of but once you do it´s very intuitive and really responsive. If you can't get along with this method, you can turn on Autofire, so you just need to press the fire button and John will automatically fire in the direction of the nearest enemy. To be honest, this is the method I tend to use as it makes the game more immediately accessible and fun.
It's in the gameplay that Minigore really comes to life, though. The endless waves of aliens add a real sense of pressure and as you progress, enemies become increasingly bigger and more numerous, requiring different tactics to survive. It starts off relatively easy, but soon becomes a lot trickier. It both induces a mild sense of panic at the amount of attacking aliens and a feeling of wild exuberance as you kill them all and survive for that bit longer. Extra weapons occasionally appear to give you a boost and allow you to kill aliens more easily and these are well-judged. They are not so numerous that the game becomes too easy, but nor do they turn up so infrequently that you feel the odds are stacked against you.
Importantly, the learning curve is really well balanced. The first few games I had, I increased my score by about a factor of 2 with each new game. This gave me a feeling of achievement, like I was getting somewhere and encouraged me to keep on playing. This gives the game instant "hookability" (to use the old Zzap! 64 term) so that I kept hitting the Retry button when I died.
Even when you get better, there´s always that aim of trying o better your own high score, giving you a longer term challenge. There are lots of unlockables to discover (new characters are unlocked when you reach a certain number of kills, for example) which further adds to the game's longevity.
The main area Minigore fails is that it is not a game that you will want to play in long bursts. After a few games, it starts to become a little repetitive and the controls start to hurt your hands a little. I tend to find that after about 5 games, I've had enough. That doesn't matter, though, because the long-term appeal is more secure and it's one I find myself returning to time and time again.
This only costs 69p and for that price, it's a real bargain. It might not have the deepest gameplay in the world, but it is a great little shooter. Minigore takes the already fun gameplay of Honest John makes it even better.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012