11-year old Minerva is a precocious little explorer, who ends up getting in over her head when she finds an abandoned mansion in the middle of the woods. Donning her goulashes, backpack, and wielding her ghost-destroying flashlight, little Minerva doesn’t bat an eye upon entering the mansion grounds—or when confronted with the news that she will be battling waves and waves of bloodthirsty ghosts, the headless butler gives this sage advice: don’t die, Minerva!
Don’t Die, Minerva! is an isometric roguelike. You control 11-year old Minerva as she dispatches ghosts with her flashlight, and picks up various upgrades and power-ups on her way through each of the mansion’s floors, and several different areas that unlock as you progress. The whole thing has a very Binding of Isaac vibe to it—and, surprisingly, has the gameplay to back that up.
Roguelikes and rogue-lites are everywhere. Don’t Die, Minerva! while not yet exactly the cream of the crop, is certainly touting a framework that could make it a classic. Don’t Die, Minerva! is basically a twin-stick shooter, but various flashlights and flashlight-like devices are your weapons. Unlike Alan Wake, or Luigi’s Mansion, enemies are simply dispatched when their health is diminished by the flashlight beam, instead of necessitating another means of permanently removing them. Flashlights aren’t just beam weapons, either—you have light cannons and Tesla-coil like electronic shooters. But Minerva has more than just flashlights to defeat the ghosts.
Minerva, in hopes of preventing her own death, has access to a number of power-ups. Items like the stuffed bear, monkey, dragon, cat (and others) work as a companion that attacks foes that get within their aggro range. Minerva can collect gems to enhance the abilities of her weapons, like adding elemental effects such as ice to slow, and fire to add extra damage.
Don’t Die, Minerva! also allows you to purchase items with coins you collect along the way—if you’re lucky enough to find a way back to the mansion’s courtyard. There you can have access to many of the power-ups you find through the levels, and you have a chance to permanently upgrade Minerva with a few NPC ghosts you will meet along the way—starting with the headless butler who is happy to permanently increase Minerva’s health, damage, and other stats—for the right material.
Don’t Die, Minerva! will release in early access on Steam next week, and what you’ll be getting for an early access game is pretty good. There are multiple areas to unlock, a few different enemy types, and bosses to defeat. The enemy types, unfortunately, never get that interesting—something I hope to see improvements for in the future.
And while it has the tight controls and potential to be as satisfying and replayable as The Binding of Isaac, it doesn’t enjoy the same type of attitude. But it does have a charming art style that, especially with the flashlight, I couldn’t help but compare to Luigi’s Mansion—just don’t expect puzzles.
Don’t Die, Minerva! is a great Binding of Isaac-like action title. It’s tight, it’s fast, and it’s chock full of potential. While it’s releasing in early access next week, the gameplay that is there now is surprisingly tight and satisfying. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as it grows, hopping in from time to time to see what’s new.
Don’t Die, Minerva! releases on December 5 on Steam Early Access.
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