by Joel France
previewed on PC
Who Built These?
Minute of Islands follows Mo the Mechanic, a young islander on a journey to prevent the downfall of a faltering community living in the ruins of a forgotten race. As you trudge and sail across the archipelago, following the guidance of your staff-like Omni Switch, your main focus is to reactivate the failing antennae that hold back the spores infecting the area. What this quest will entail is left somewhat indefinite, though it’s safe to say that there will be a number of secrets along the way.
It is clear to see that the influence of this game’s hand drawn art style draws at least in part from Adventure Time, with parallels in regards to the narrative as well - both set in a world where previous civilisations have long been lost. It’s difficult not to be charmed by the bright colour palette and playful visuals. If anything, the contrast between the palette and the sobering themes of the game serve to effectively highlight just how bleak the islands’ future is.
Conversation in Minute of Islands is of little focus in your interactions with the islandfolk, with the narrative developments providing only a brief summary of the topics discussed. This lends a distant air to your exchanges and prevents any stilted dialogue from detracting from the somber mood of the game. As you explore, Mo’s actions help to sell the urgency of the mission. In more spore-filled areas she will frequently falter to cough and splutter - You can see just how much of an impact this task is having on her.
The demo I played at Gamescom was pretty light in terms of puzzling, but had a strong sense of atmosphere. Clambering amongst the ruins of the old world, it’s easy to see how some structures have been repurposed by the current residents for storage or shelter, where others have been long left in disrepair. This is assisted in no small part by the beautifully ambient soundtrack for the game, which reacts in subtle ways to Mo’s actions as you flip switches and clamber across rooftops. Music and diegetic effects like wind and wood creaking are seamlessly interwoven to give a hyper-real representation of how Mo is experiencing this soundscape.
When Mo comes across a landmark or building that she has a prior connection with, you as the player are given the opportunity to ‘remember’ a slice of the memories she has created there in the past. This gives players the chance to learn a little more about how island life has treated our protagonist. It’s a nicely organic way to show how closely Mo is tied to the health and history of the islands’ ecosystems - though the progress indicator that pops up straight after (showing how many of X memories you’ve discovered on a given island) feels a little heavy-handed and not quite in spirit with the tone of the rest of the experience. All the same, it’s always nice when a game gives you the chance to dig deeper into the story you find yourself in.
As for what’s next, the booth at Gamescom held only a short 10 minute demo of Minute of Islands, which culminated in a set piece that implies there’s a lot more at stake than previously indicated. Whilst it’s too early to say how the full release will compare, I’ll certainly be watching for updates from developers Studio Fizbin over the coming months and I’d not hesitate to recommend others do the same.