EARLY ACCESS REVIEW: ‘Don’t Die, Minerva!’ – Spooky, but Make it Cute (Xbox One)

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Don’t Die, Minerva!

Don’t Die, Minerva! is developed and published by Xaviant. Minerva finds herself with a problem. Her new home is infested with ghosts, bats and many forms of the monster. These creatures all serve the nefarious Master. If Minerva wishes to ride her home of these creatures she’ll have to fight her way through numerous procedurally generated floors filled with enemies to defeat the Master himself. Luckily Minerva is not alone. The magic inhabiting the area has brought her favorite stuffed toys to life. These plush creatures are eager and willing to help Minerva in her quest to save her home.

Don’t Die, Minerva!’s gameplay blends the controls of your standard action RPG with the framework of a roguelike nicely. While systematically clearing floors in the top-down view the genre is known for Minerva finds lots of useful power-ups to aid her on her quest. Better weapons, items to improve her attributes, and a plethora of furry friends such as monkeys, bears, and kittens are all acquirable throughout the various levels. The gameplay itself performs well. Aiming isn’t difficult, especially since most enemies make fairly large targets. The thrill of finding new loot also never completely diminishes over the course of a run as I rarely went long periods without finding the gear that was worth equipping.

Also, while going through levels in Don’t Die, Minerva! players will come across essence crystals. These crystals can be brought to a vender and be exchanged for permanent boosts to aid Minerva. These power-ups stood out from many such rewards within games since they don’t actually alter Minerva herself. Instead, they alter the world around her. Perks, like being able to find loot in broken items, acquiring a healing potion at the end of floors, or being able to change unwanted items into gold, are just some of the useful tools the player can unlock. These unlock go a long way to helping the player make headway in the quest to free Minerva’s home.

Don’t Die, Minerva! couples it’s action RPG elements with the classic play/die/restart formula of the roguelike genre. While this formula is propped up by fun gameplay and enjoyable loot collection it does suffer due to a lack of interesting areas to battle through. Most rooms boil down to a big, mostly open, square area that sees Minerva swarmed by enemies. There is rarely anything engaging from a gameplay perspective about these areas. Even larger rooms that feature traps are often defeated by an odd quirk with how the enemies spawn.

With most action RPGs I’ve played enemies will appear in waves as the player progress through a given area. This keeps the gameplay exciting by providing a steady stream of challenges. With Don’t Die, Minerva! the enemies usually continue to appear in waves as soon as the previous wave is defeated. What this tends to amount to is the player stepping into a room, not progressing further until every enemy that will spawn in that room is defeated, and then running around a now empty room looking for loot. This setup gives the game a very odd tempo to its encounters. I found there is an inordinate amount of slow times between fights.

While the gameplay of Don’t Die, Minerva! is sound what stood out to me more in this game is how wonderfully it utilizes its theme. It keeps a spooky vibe to the festivities while never budging from being undeniably cute. The decision to have Minerva aided by her stuffed toys is a design choice I absolutely adore. Even the ghosts and ghouls that challenge Minerva’s journey through the procedurally generated levels have an undeniably silly tone. With other spooky, but cute, games making splashes recently Don’t Die, Minerva! stakes it’s own claim on this lovely aesthetic.

I have overall enjoyed my time playing Don’t Die, Minerva!. While the gameplay never truly excels enough to separate it from the rest of the pack it is none the less enjoyable. With a charming aesthetic to help it stand apart, it is certainly worth a look if you want a bit of silly/spooky in your roguelike playtime. And since this is still an early access game the developers may have more improvements still in the pipeline. I don’t think it would take a lot to get this game out of the average category to become a more noteworthy experience.

Don’t Die, Minerva! is available now on Steam and Xbox One Early Access.

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