Your Own. Personal. Limbo.

HIGH Unique visuals, both dreamy and nightmarish.

LOW Unmemorable level layouts.

WTF Why is it a guessing game to figure out which terrain I can walk on ?!

I think most good people try to become (and remain) productive members of society, and we condition ourselves to be physically and mentally able to perform tasks of various difficulties. In fact, being assigned a crucial duty, for some of us, is a dream come true. It’s not just a ‘badge’ that demands respect, it can sometimes morph into a psychological shield — an elevation where we place our presumed societal standing.

The other side of this is that it can also became a potent alibi for the abandonment of basic aspects of life, like family connections and the need to cultivate relationships. In other words, being an ‘important individual’ sometimes translates to ‘someone who can treat others with impunity’. This situation is the allegorical center in Minute of Islands.

The 2D hand-drawn world of our hero, Mo, is decaying. The islands that make up her home are being assaulted by a corrupting gas, and the force fields that keep them safe have been turned off.

Mo is the person responsible for maintaining these force fields, and thereby responsible for ensuring the safety of the other inhabitants where this story unfolds. To perform her work, she wields a very important, imperial-looking staff, which she uses to gain access to places unreachable to anyone other than her. Armed with this rod, Mo must visit each of the islands and attempt to restart the fields and purify the surrounding air.

This poison in the atmosphere is an ominous, thick fog, which can send people into a state of hallucinogen-infused sleep before ultimately killing them after prolonged exposure.  All around, we see just how powerful this gas is. There’s death and decay everywhere, and nothing is spared — whales washed up onto the beaches become unrecognizable masses of grey meat, with staring, dead eyes, softened bones and detached fins.

 Gameplay consists of navigating these expertly drawn, unsettling landscapes full of things long dead. Keeping us company on this adventure is the voice of the narrator, which loosely informs us of Mo’s history, as well of her inner monologue when she is reminded of memories or past events.

Aside from walking, jumping and eventually interacting with machines compatible with her rod, there isn’t anything else we do in Minute of Islands. There’s no combat, time limits or any elaborate button combinations we need to be mindful of. All ‘challenge’ comes from the puzzles — connect this contraption with that energy flow, position this ladder here, etc. These tend to be disorienting due to the absence of a map and because of the items’ visual quality of blending in with the environments.

Similarly, one notable problem is that Minute of Islands isn’t clear about which parts of the scenery are walkable and which are just window dressing. Since Mo can traverse only two dimensions, it’s important to know exactly she can climb up or down. Bafflingly, there are many examples where paths are telegraphed in the right way, but maybe a quarter of the time it’s a guessing game — I sometimes had to resort to mashing buttons to find the intended traversable spot in an area.

As this is a short experience I won’t venture into spoiler territory, but I will say that as our hero slowly fulfills her duties (and they’re so important that she never finds time to equip a life-preserving gas mask) her malfunctioning moral compass becomes more prevalent. To describe Mo as “stubborn” would be derivative — her psyche is convoluted, and she’s definitely one of the more intriguing videogame characters I’ve encountered in recent memory. Her actions are equal parts heroic and problematic.

Admittedly, it all leads to a well-foreshadowed resolution focusing on her troubled understanding of the verb “living”, yet thanks to the appropriately-intense focus on introspection, I can report that Minute of Islands manages a symbolic triumph at the end. It’s succinct in the exploration of its central themes, and impactful when arriving to its point.

Rating: 7 out of 10

— Konstantin Koteski

Disclosures: This game is developed by Studio Fizbin and published by Mixtvision. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, PC, Mac and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the story, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game has received a T rating by ESRB, and contains Blood, Fantasy Violence and Use of Alcohol. There’s no combat, but the game is full of hand-drawn and somewhat disturbing landscapes depicting decaying animal carcasses, extremely polluted areas, and more. The overall atmosphere is quite dreary. I’d say the rating is on point.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

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Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialog is accompanied by subtitles that are not able to be altered or resized. Audio cues are not necessary for play. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The control scheme is not remappable.

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