As we approach the 2019 joyous Holiday Season what better way for a gamer to celebrate than to sit down with a spooky, horror-based dungeon crawler, right? We gamers are a strange lot indeed. While Xaviant Games‘ rogue-lite dungeon crawler, Don’t Die, Minerva!, isn’t particularly spooky it is light-hearted spooky-based at its core in a Casper The Ghost kind of way. Earlier this month Don’t Die, Minerva! saw early access release on Steam PC and Xbox One for $19.99 USD. Xaviant Games asked us to give our first impressions of this early build on the Xbox One platform.
Don’t Die, Minerva! is a light-hearted, but challenging rogue-lite action RPG set in a haunted house. You play from a third-person, three-quarter top-down, typical ARPG perspective as the 11-year old girl Minerva. On a dark and stormy night, you discover a haunted house deep in the woods. Like all good horror movies, you can’t resist entering this spooky mansion. Armed with your trusty flashlight, and a backpack of stuffed animal companions, you’re in for the fight of your life!
Don’t Die, Minerva!’s gameplay is pretty straight-forward. Easy to play, frustrating and hard to master but compelling enough to keep trying. As Minerva, you’re armed with a flashlight that acts like a “gun” in the basic sense. The game is a dungeon-crawler. The mansion, floor by floor and room by room, is the “dungeon”. You need to clear the current room before the doors to the next connected rooms open up. You ascend the mansion level by level until you reach the end, or until you die, which you’ll do quite often. Each floor is procedurally generated making each run slightly different from the last. As you proceed through each floor you collect money, essence, and gems from shooting spookies and opening sporadic chests. If you die on your way up the mansion you lose any money, gear and gems you’ve collected, hence rogue-lite.
They Are Mean Ones, Mr. Grinch!
As you progress through each floor all kinds of cute spooky things try to kill you. Many of them shoot spread gun projectiles, in a Contra-like fashion, at you. If you hit the ghosts with your flashlight they take damage. Your flashlight, of course, is stamina based so you don’t have an endless supply of “batteries”. It’ll take a while to master getting through a typical level. Early on you’re armed with a basic flashlight and a stuffed monkey. Stuffed animals in this game act as short-term companions, they are akin to laying down a temporary trap/mine/turret when you come to terms with it.
On the Xbox One and a controller, the character movement was very fluid and responsive. You’re only armed with the ‘RT’ button to flash your stamina-limited light on baddies, and some items that need to be picked up. And you’ll use the ‘B’ button to quickly dash roll out of the way. You’ll find that using the ‘X’ button plops down your equipped furry pal who’ll attack the baddies for you for a short while, in a given range. Early on you’ll need to master the art of running one way while aiming your flashlight in a different direction. This was a fine motor skill I found hard to master. Most of the time I fell back on the time-tested method of kiting my way through.
Spend ‘Em When You Get ‘Em!
Collected essences can be turned into Mr. Butterworth, within a random room in each level, to buy certain upgrades on Minerva. The caveat with upgrades is that they must be fully purchased to activate. Early on this feels a bit grueling as essences seem to be a rare commodity. Typically, they are a cache that needs to be opened with your flashlight and then you can pick up the dropped gem. Additionally, gems can be slotted to power up your flashlight with new attributes. Unfortunately, gems seemed somewhat scarce early on as well.
The Final Word
While Don’t Die, Minerva! does have three difficulty settings I found even starting on “normal” a bit frustrating for me. It took several runs, with nothing to show for it until I came up with a personal strategy on how to progress through each room. Once I figured out how to make use of the tools I was given than I started to make progress. The game starts out seeming simplistic but can become a challenge to master. To some, it might seem quite repetitive. But if you stick with it you’ll find the game to be fun and addictive.
This game was previewed with an early access code from PR.