Don’t Die, Minerva! Preview

Don’t Die, Minerva! is an Early Access title by developer Xaviant that takes place in a haunted mansion, and is experienced from the perspective of an 11-year old girl named Minerva. The ghostly form of a butler is her guide, and he communicates and guides our young protagonist with the detached air of a snooty, uncaring servant who obviously considers himself above his lowly station. He tasks Minerva with exterminating the ghosts and other creatures that haunt the mansion’s upper floors. After a loading screen disguised as a quick elevator ride our young heroine prepares for her assault by attaching a stuffed animal to her backpack. The toy has the ability to help out in a pinch, although I always forgot to use it until I was already dead.

Minerva’s weapon is a standard flashlight, the beam of which is used to vanquish the many ghosts and bats that pervade each procedurally-generated level. While the mobs primarily spews balls of flame from multiple directions, it’s up to Minerva to navigate navigate through the deadly blasts through timing, distance management, and dashing (although in my playthroughs the dash was actually a roll, either it’s mis-labeled or the developers are still tweaking this part). Occasionally a special-type mob will appear that has a few extra abilities, like a shield or the ability to charge unexpectedly. The only way that Minerva can kill a ghost is through attrition using the light from her flashlight beam.

On my first time entering the rooms I lasted all of about five seconds. That increased gradually and eventually I was able to clear the first room, then a few more. The same two basic mob types that I encountered were ghosts and bats, and depending on how many swarmed determined how many rooms I was able to clear. Minerva’s health seemed to evaporate much quicker than I was skilled to play. At start-up Don’t Die, Minerva! outright warns that the difficulty is high and I felt intimidated enough to pick the easy difficulty setting. Even at that beginner level I wasn’t good enough to make it far enough to earn an upgrade. 

Minerva is marketed as a rogue-lite RPG, but the build I played either didn’t have those systems in place, or I’m just terrible at bullet-hell type games and wasn’t accomplished enough to earn any. In all honesty, the difficulty was beyond my skill level, even at the easiest difficulty setting; I have the twitch skills of a baby brontosaurus. However I did delight in the visuals and the sound. Don’t Die, Minerva! is polished. The animation, the lighting effects, the fluidity of Minerva, the rooms and the various Halloween/horror items placed everywhere really sell the atmosphere, and the sound effects are immersive. My sole complaint is with my lack of ability with this type of game.

Conclusion

Don’t Die, Minerva! is a challenging rogue-lite RPG/bullet-hell hybrid with lots of cutesy-charm riding above it’s deceptively deep skill requirements. Even those pinched off by the ability wickets would have a hard time disputing that Minerva is a beautiful game. I’ll be anxious to give it another go once Xaviant is finished with it.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • For a game in early access, Minerva looks good, from item placement to procedurally-generated levels and lighting. It sounds great, too
  • Pathing mechanics and monster behaviors are in-place and working well. Minerva herself is very responsive and controls very well
Bad
  • The difficulty as is will prevent many gamers from enjoying the secrets and lore that lives deeper into the game. Even "Easy" was a ridiculous challenge for me, a self-proclaimed slow-fingered older person
Written by
I was gaming way before it was cool or accepted, when games were sold in ziplock bags and gaming clues required a letter and a SASE to the actual developer. I’m not saying that like it’s a credential or an odd badge of honor, but as a statement that video games can be fun and engaging independent of graphics, the number of player choices allowed, or game mechanics. I felt the same sense of joy and exhilaration with text-based games of yore as I do playing the most advanced games of today.

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