Despicable Me: Minion Mania Review

Typically, when you hear the words “movie tie-in game” it creates an involuntary twinge, followed by huge disappointment. Despicable Me: Minion Mania does buck this trend, but only just. It’s a fun game, but small issues drag it down.

Based upon the upcoming film Despicable Me starring Steve Carrell as the world’s former number one supervillain named Gru, the game Despicable Me: Minion Mania seems to follow the plot of the film loosely. Controlling Gru’s robotic minions, you are tasked with silly goals like grabbing a shrink-ray or a toy unicorn (for Gru’s new unlikely children he has to keep happy while trying to retake the top baddie spot). To do this, you must guide Gru’s minions to an exit point or to grab an item first then exit.

In order to accomplish your goals, Gru and his science team have made a variety of items to help the minions overcome all their obstacles. A freeze ray lets you freeze a minion to be a step to go to higher ground; a grappling hook lets you hook onto either ventilation shafts or grapple points around the level; a rocket launcher breaks crumbling walls. These items are all clearly explained in the game’s easy-to-follow tutorials.

 Minion Mania

In addition, there are a number of hazards and puzzles riddling each level. Colored walls require a button press to remove them, pools of lava, and more await the minions and your ingenuity. There is a good variety of puzzles here, which again, surpasses our expectations for a movie game. With hidden achievements along the way you’ll be tempted to find all sorts of mischief for those adorable little minions.

The issues, though, outweigh the good. Despicable Me: Minion Mania is a pretty game, with great 3D graphics and a boppin’ soundtrack. The still images from the movie also help add to the flavor of the game. However, it’s all a bit ambitious for the poor iPhone. Whenever there are a lot of things going on – steam and bubbles from a lava pool, different lights and textures and multiple minions onscreen – the game just chugs (though it does run a bit better on an iPad). It slows things down tremendously, disrupting the flow of the game.

Adding to the difficulty is the control. To move a minion you’ll tap where you want him to go, and he dutifully obeys. Switching between minions is done either by tapping their icon at the top of the screen or the minion itself. The touching isn’t very precise, and often you’ll mean to touch a different minion, but guide your current one to an impossible or inconvenient location. Naturally, this will happen after you’ve navigated a gauntlet and lined him up perfectly with a switch. The icons are none too helpful either: too small to be useful, and they don’t really indicate which minion is which.

 Minion Mania

Another control oddity involves tilting your iPhone to steer a minion if he picks up some anti-gravity solution. The tilt seems to be in the opposite direction you think they should go (tilting down and to the left to make them float to the right), which either leads to untimely death, or in a couple of cases, being stuck on an icon, touching the ground immediately, sending the minion into an infinite loop that could only be stopped by restarting the level. There aren’t enough level, either. With only 20 of them, you can play through the game in under an hour.

So what is that 100+ megabyte file you’re downloading? Trailers, still photos and synopses of the movie. Rather than simply link to YouTube videos or a website, Despicable Me: Minion Mania puts all the movie advertising right into the app, which is quite a waste of space considering how effective the internet is these days for multimedia presentations.

What could have been a great puzzle/platformer ends up being marred by silly, avoidable issues. Despicable Me: Minion Mania is fun for what it is, but the potential to be so much more is obvious. Its clunkiness is painful at times, but the game still has an undeniable charm. Despicable Me: Minion Mania certainly isn’t despicable, but it isn’t quite respectable.