Minotron: 2112 is an easy buy for Jeff Minter fans. For everyone else though, it may be a little tougher to appreciate
Not long ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Minotaur Rescue, the first iOS title made by long-time game maker Jeff Minter. His company Llamasoft has made quite a name for themselves making truly bizarre games that seem to divide the people who try them into either the love or hate camp. Most people hate them, and I can sort of see why… but I steadfastly belong in that other group. Guess that makes me the perfect person to dig through the nonsense and review Minotron: 2112.
This is the second games for iOS from Llamasoft, and for a second time they’re calling upon classic games as their foundation to build on. Last time Minotaur Rescue was a combination of Asteroids and Space War, and this time around Minotron: 2112 is a take on the original twin-stick shooter Robotron 2084. Robotron is a classic in every sense of the word (and a personal favorite of mine) so I was pretty excited to see the game drawn upon for inspiration.
You’ll use your two thumbs to act as the twin sticks to both move (playing as a minotaur naturally) and shoot, trying to gather animals while shooting whatever else is on the screen at the same time. The enemies change each level, and are just a hodgepodge of things. “Things” is the best way to describe them. Sometimes you’re shooting guys with guns, sometimes coke cans, sometimes light bulbs. Very little makes sense in a Llamasoft game, so you kind of just accept it as it’s happening.
In addition to the classic arcade callback for Robotron, there are also tons of additional easter eggs thrown in referencing all kinds of classic game and even culture ephemera. The initial logo is a take on Mattel’s old game logo (who’s “running man” also shows up in-game), and the title screen is lifted right out of an Intellivision game. There are Beastie Boys sound samples and even a little riff from a Pink Floyd song. I think I saw R2-D2 and the flag from the country of Wales in there too. Yea, it’s really all over the place.
Just like in Minotaur Rescue the colors bleed all over the place and the game makes you feel like you’re on some sort of hallucinogenic trip. The sound effects and nonsensical graphics only serve to heighten the effect. This all makes the game even harder to play, since you need to look past a lot of that stuff to decipher what’s going on.
If there’s a downside to the game, it’s that it really isn’t built with everyone in mind. It’s super strange, and if you’re not into it the weird effects and sounds will really just make you hate it even more. It’s the very opposite of an accessible game. If working a bit to appreciate a game isn’t for you (which is totally fine btw) then don’t waste your money on this game – you’re going to hate it.
I think it’s safe to say that most game developers make games they think most people in the world would enjoy playing. Even hardcore games probably start from the fundamental belief that each and every game could potentially reach a critical mass of people. Jeff Minter seems to take the opposite approach. His games are typically confusing to look at and even harder to explain, let alone enjoy. But to a very small segment of us, there’s something immensely enjoyable about putting in work to enjoy what a game like this has to offer.