We all have programmed deaths and breathing slowly brings us closer to it. Without oxygen we drown, but it rusts us again. A whole crossroads that life offers us. Perhaps with this idea in mind, Studio Fizbin is moving completely away from the humor that they give us in Say No! More brings us the Minute of Islands, a proposal in which we think about how often we impose obligations that we impose on ourselves, even if it means leaving our relationships or our own needs behind.
We are in a dystopian world where humanity is in danger. The air is poisoned by yellow fungal spores that spread across the archipelago, destroying everything in their way. Breathing brings you closer to death, but not doing it is not an option. For a while, this world was safe thanks to four giants who live underground and who were responsible for keeping some machines running that purify the air.
In Minute of Islands we bring Mo, a young woman who is responsible for ensuring that the air can be breathed, that everything works properly, that the four giants work without interruption so that humanity can survive. She is the chosen one, the bearer of the Omnivara, a kind of magic wand that enables us to direct energy onto the giants.
But one day Mo wakes up and finds that no machine is working, the giants have fallen asleep and everything has come to a standstill. Our goal is clear from the start: we must leave our cave, this underground refuge that protects us above all, to challenge the surface and awaken the giants, purify the air and protect humanity.
We will sacrifice a little of our underground life when life away from the world can be called life, to keep the air breathable a little longer, to postpone the inevitable. We begin our adventure through the different islands of the archipelago, looking for the damaged generators, repairing them and going underground to wake the sleeping giants.
On each island, we will discover memories that will allow us to see the world before the so-called Exodus, when most of the people decided to leave the islands. But it will also allow us to learn more about Mo and how he isolated himself, separated from everything and everyone, even from his family, who are only on the island for them.
We’ll learn about her inner struggles and how the pressures and obligations to be the heroine that is expected of her (or so Mo thinks) has made her what she is. No way is easy, and being a hero can be more complex than it seems. Not just because of the loneliness that comes with it, but because she has to take on the responsibility that is expected of her and that she takes it alone.
We will live all of this with what they show us and with the voice of a narrator telling what is happening in Spanish. Something that fits the proposal very well and that helps to get into the story, although the details don’t always reflect the harsh and harsh reality they teach us. Sometimes he chooses to mitigate the putrefaction that you can only feel by looking.
But what may at first seem like an interesting proposition soon expires because the cyclical and repetitive pattern of each island is discovered too quickly. In all of them we will have to find and reactivate the generators, wake up the giants, fix circuits and connect and come back all while trying to enjoy some simple platforms and puzzles that are neither challenging nor adding to the plot. But also in a design that is too similar from island to island, which not only reduces the tension, but also makes it monotonous and leads you away from the story.
What is noticeable is its artistic part and unfortunately it is the little that is noticeable. On the trip, Mo will visit detailed, hand-painted scenes. Precious in the decadence they convey. Vibrant colors mix with a touch of melancholy and loneliness. Every element we see reminds us of the fine line between life and death: remnants of decay and death coexist with pieces of metal and struggle to survive in an environment that has already written its fate.
When she travels from one island to another, Mo will do so in her boat, which she uses to cross clouds of spores that cause hallucinations that trap her. In them we have to collect some creatures that appear in a certain order and only then can we escape these illusions and return to reality. Probably the idea was to add variety to the mechanics, but the truth is that they neither bring freshness nor fit too well as they repeat themselves again.
Minute of Islands is an experimental and introspective proposition. To begin with, they warn us that the story we are about to experience will deal with sensitive issues such as anxiety, depression, and interpersonal relationships. And while it is true that Mo’s loneliness is brought to us, the environment constantly reminds us of death, and the unfolding of the story leads us to explore Mo’s intrusive and negative thoughts, I have not felt or lived them in the first person. Not like I could in other games like Gray.
We live in a critical situation that requires speed on our part, but the mechanisms they propose are slow. The animations and narration are slow and we even experience details of our character like the fixing of his clothes when exiting a tunnel, which signal his calm.
Despite attempting to tell a transcendental story and conveying these profound messages, the result ends up fuzzy and becomes an interesting story, but with flaws that make it a different story. A story that pretends to be more than what it ultimately is.
I’m really sorry to say that Minute of Islands let me down, probably because of my high expectations. With such a suggestion, I assumed that the gameplay would be pushed into the background; that his magic would lie in the message he would convey. But it wasn’t like that. Although I appreciate that you face certain problems, since everything in life is not rosy or smiling and there are bad moments as well as negative emotions, I feel that the message has been blurred and not transmitted.
Despite the initial warning they give, I feel like they don’t end up causing discomfort without saying too much about … anything. Greater freedom in our movements, even losing ourselves, imparting a more claustrophobic feeling and having puzzles that make us feel trapped or indiscriminate, or even make decisions that have consequences, would enhance the experience. Although I think the interesting thing would have been to notice an evolution as you play, rather than that sense of repetition, on top of the apparent lack of agility that puts the pressure and responsibility on Mo.
At one point we all felt like Mo because we believe we have a vital mission that will eventually make us forget everything that surrounds us, even the reason that led us to do it. And without realizing it, we become these giants who are forced to lead a life without rest for a groundless end. Sometimes we close ourselves off believing that there is no other way out than the decision we have already made without going back. But what if there are more roads? Is Mo really alone on this mission? What if you ask for help or run away from your duty? In real life, we are not and neither do we have to be heroes. We need to know how far we can hold out and be aware of our limits.