Review: Despicable Me: Minion Rush
Run as far as you can, collect as many of our chosen objects (in this case bananas), and avoid everything else that gets in the way. Oh, and you have three lanes you can run down, so swipe on the screen to switch between them. It's a well-worn concept of mobile gaming, and there are countless interpretations that are, frankly, a bit of a car-crash. That's not the case with Gameloft's latest release. Minion Rush does everything you would expect of an infinite runner, but it does it with such skill, panache, and branding, that this little movie tie-in game is threatening Temple Run as the definitive version of the genre.
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
But how can you make a modern infinite runner game more attractive, easily identifiable, and something that children will clamour to play (and adults will sneakily enjoy as well)? Quite simply you add the juggernaut that is 'Dave', one of Gru's Minions from the 'Despicable Me' franchise.
You take control of the dungaree'd up yellow Minion as he runs around the levels collecting bananas as he goes; high fiving other Minions (to increase the bonus multiplier on offer); dodging the obstacles by running beside them; rolling under them, or jumping over them; and picking up the occasional super weapon so you can zoom forward in the level and collect some extra bananas along the way.
It's all very much as you would expect, with swipes on your touchscreen to the left, to the right, up, and down, being all the controls that you would need. But it's done with style and grace, and thanks to some coding, runs far better on Windows Phone than it does on Android.
Gameloft has taken the opportunity to address the biggest failing of the infinite running genre, and that's the tunnel vision (sic) you can get over long periods of play. By mixing up the viewpoint and adding in different challenge modes, Minion Rush keeps your attention while you build up a really high score. Probably the most challenging mode is when the game switches to a side on view and asks you to jump and duck in rapid succession over a number of new obstacles. It's still the same game, but this camera twist just breaks up the action enough to keep you fresh.
You also have the ability to pick up certain objects that will give you a twist to the run, such as a guided missile you can use to catch coins in the sky, a fluffy unicorn which rakes in the coins, and a green slide where you have to steer Dave using the accelerometers on the handset and not swiping between lanes.
And of course, Gameloft would like you to spend some money. There are in-app purchases, notably of bananas and Gru Coins so you can accelerate the purchase of better and stronger objects (more power to the fluffy unicorns!), but there's also the old staple of the 'double your collecting power' one-off payment. At £3.99, it feels like the full price of the game, so it's a fair trade. If I wasn't invested in Minion Rush already on another platform, I would probably take Gameloft up on this offer (more on that in a moment).
One thing that I've noticed on the Android version of this game is that unless the handset was sporting a huge amount of RAM, and a top of the line CPU and GPU, it was jittery to play, with many animations dropping frames to try to keep up with the progress of the game. Thankfully that's not the case on Windows Phone.
Playing Minion Rush, even on the RAM and CPU-limited Nokia Lumia 620, was an experience of smooth graphics and responsive controls. Whatever Microsoft did with the mobile OS for developer support is working. If Gameloft ever puts a mid-range Android device next to a mid-range Windows Phone device, the difference in the OS and dev environments will be clear, and it's a clear win for Windows Phone.
As has been the case for a number of high-profile titles in recent times, Minion Rush has already been released on iOS and Android, and it's been a popular download on those platforms (with well over 100 million downloads in all). That means the marketing strategy of pairing up the game with the cute minions has worked, but it also means that Minion Rush feels just a touch dated on its arrival to Windows Phone.
It also leads me to another issue, which is not a deal-breaker for many, but makes me pause for a moment. Thanks to everyone in the family borrowing my Android smartphone, I already have significant investment in Minion Rush on another platform, with coins, power-ups, and bonuses already in my inventory. Unfortunately, there's no way to transfer these ongoing game saves into my Windows Phone device. It's a small thing, but your earnings in the game (and via any in-app purchases) are locked to a solitary handset.
There is a cloud save functionality in the Windows Phone version of the game, but it looks like it is tied to a single device, so you can restore purchases and your last position. That's great for the majority of restoration cases (including a reset on your phone), but I would have liked the ability to have a cloud save that works over multiple devices. Gameloft already have a cloud based network you can register for, this would have been perfect for it.
But I'm going to put this down as a minor quibble, because Minion Rush meets all the goals that you would hope for in a mobile game. The first is that the game is playable, has a good ramp up of skill as you play, and continues to offer you a challenge as you play. The second is that it looks good; both the menus and dialog boxes are clear in Minion Rush, and the various objects in the game, from obstacles and walkways to fellow minions and collectible power-ups, are easy to distinguish, even when you reach the faster parts of the game. And finally, it has that quality that every hit game needs - the urge for the player to have one more go, to know they can do a little bit better if they simply focus a little more the next time they start another run.
Minion Rush has all that and something else - the cute chatter of minionese in the background and a thumping motion picture level soundtrack. There's a lot to like here, and while it is just another infinite runner, it's another infinite runner that has had love, care, and attention lavished on it. This is not a cheap tie-in, this is the real thing.
Now, I have time for one more run against my high score before I post this review.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at