The characters and writing are marvelous
Little to no gameplay, underutilized story and characters
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.
The short: It’s alright, albeit a little lackluster.
There’s very little gameplay to Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which is a troubling statement, but it still works. It’s not quite right to call this game a shameless copy of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, since I feel there was quite a bit of shame that caused some unique decisions to be made, but the statement is still relevant. There are two main differences between this movie tie-in and the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series: a lack of direct control over the characters, and the characters themselves.
As I already stated, there isn’t much gameplay here: the player does very little to affect the outcome of the game. The goal is to obtain one miscellaneous item with the main character — the chief minion — and to reach the end of the stage within 90 seconds, but the amount of control you have over the game involves starting your characters (you can’t stop them, by the way) and activating switches and levers around them to open bridges, operate elevators, make springs shoot your characters to new areas, and so on. Other than that, you’re really just watching the game play itself.
The game’s levels have clear objectives– the object’s here, the exit’s here, now go for it– but the “puzzle” aspect is figuring out in what order to activate each character, since each one has a unique ability, like traversing fire, defeating enemies, breaking special walls, etc. Sometimes there will be a few sets of ladders that you’ll have to think your way around, because the characters are lemmings and will climb them as soon as they reach them; it’s much more aggravating than it sounds, trust me.
There’s also a story, but there might as well not be, as it is unconnected to the “game” part of the game. An opening sequence very quickly informs you as to why you’re doing what you’re doing. The writing is humorous — it made me want to watch the movie– but it’s thrown at the player so fast, and until the large block of text stops scrolling it is completely illegible. Even after that, the selection of fonts and letter sizes were difficult to read. Yes, this is a very minor complaint, but, as this is the very first thing the game allows you to experience, it’s very important: it establishes the atmosphere for the rest of the game, and because of the inability to digest what was being placed in front of me, I almost felt as if I weren’t welcome, or expected to read the text.
Regardless, the characters and writing more than make up for this shortcoming. Seriously, Gru? I want his job. When you successfully complete a mission, he looks so incredibly happy; it just cheers me up and almost brings a tear to my eye when I see that man’s beaming smile. And you know what? I actually want to get high scores on stages so that I can be the Minion of the Month (equivalent of a gold star, and man, I was always a sucker for those things). In a not-so-immature way: the game’s presentation is very well done and makes up for the rushed feel of other things.
But Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem‘s pleasant appeal does not atone for its difficulty. This game is clearly aimed at a younger generation, and although the puzzles are not complex, they are mind-numbingly unforgiving due to the lack of direct control over characters. After you’ve started each character moving, you might immediately notice that, because of a ladder you had not calculated into your grand schemes, your main character will walk into another minion, bounce off of him, and fall into a fiery pit. So you’ll twiddle your thumbs (or your toes, if you’re into that sort of thing) and wait an agonizing five or ten seconds to get to the game over screen. Not fun.
On a related note, although receiving a “game over” has absolutely no negative impact on the game, the game over screen is presented often: any mistake, any failure, and you receive a “game over” before being placed at the beginning again. I don’t understand the necessity of this. While it’s true that there is absolutely no negative impact upon the gameplay, I’m still disheartened to see a “game over” screen. It dampens the mood, and I’m sad that the developer chose to so readily hand them out.
In spite of the lack of direct control over the minions, the controls themselves are intuitive and don’t necessitate reading the manual before starting. The game’s level designs are rehashed fairly often, but no more than you would expect. Each world has its own unique look, but every stage within the world (save the bonus stages) uses the same visuals. Luckily, there aren’t enough stages per world that this becomes a huge hassle.
Overall, if you like Lemmings and the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, then you probably won’t mind this game. It’s frustratingly hard but well-made; easy to pick up but quickly repetitive. There are better games that are similar, and though this one has faults, it’s not horrible. Just be aware that if you’re getting it for someone as a gift, the recipient might think the game’s too hard.