The Lost Minions
The first Overlord seemingly came out of nowhere when it was released. It was an original IP that both scored well with critics and found a loyal following of fans. Because it was so well received, and because almost everybody loves to play as an antihero, it really came as no surprise that there was going to be a sequel.
However, what did come as bit of a revelation is just how many Overlord titles were coming. Far from the Xbox 360 timed exclusivity of the original, new Overlord games recently hit just about every console currently on the market. Luckily, for systems like the Wii and DS, instead of just trying to port Overlord II directly to the less powerful hardware, some time and effort was actually taken to craft system specific experiences that attempt to take advantage of their respective consoles.
In Overlord Minions (OM) for the DS, the name says it all. Instead of managing hordes of minions by way of controlling an onscreen overlord, you are just given direct control over four minions in total. Each of these four minions has its own personality and specific set of skills which are used in order to successfully navigate through each level and in solving various puzzles. If you’ve ever played the classic title The Lost Vikings, then you know about what to expect, although this game is played from a top-down 3D view as opposed to being a 2D side-scrolling adventure.
Giblet is a shade of brown and has the ability to move heavy objects, can withstand strong wind, and is good at melee combat. Blaze is understandably red, and his abilities revolve around fire whether it is throwing balls of it or just being able to walk through it unscathed. Stench was apparently named after his odor after walking through some poisonous gas clouds or his ability to release his own after eating special green fruit, which also matches his complexion. Last but not least is the blue minion Zap, who is actually fairly weak but invaluable as a support character, since he can heal the other minions as well as himself and is the only minion who is able to walk through water.
Using these basic abilities in addition to a few others for each minion you’ll learn about while playing, you will need to solve a plethora of environmental puzzles in order to advance. A good example would be making use of Giblet to push a giant block out of the way and having Zap cross a stream to flip a switch that opens the doorway to your next destination. The levels and puzzles start off fairly basic, giving you only one or two minions to control and easy enough to figure out objectives. However, by the end of the game, you will get into some very complex levels that will require the ideal usage of all of your minions and their abilities if you hope to progress.
Throughout the game you will also be pitted against some rather imposing bosses. These boss battles, much like the rest of OM, focus more on your wits and ability to effectively utilize your minions’ specific skills rather than how much damage you can inflict. The first one you’ll come across has you facing off against a giant plant with a large mouth. In order to deal with it, you’ll have to use Giblet to push boxes over toxic waste drains, Stench to take out toxic gas emitters, Zap to walk across water to pick up gas bombs, and Blaze to ignite pockets of gas throughout the course of this multistage fight. These battles are actually quite fun and are somewhat reminiscent of combating bosses in a Legend of Zelda title.
Another comparison that can be drawn between OM and a LoZ title, in this case Phantom Hourglass, is its controls. Just like in Phantom Hourglass, everything is controlled using the stylus and touch screen. If you want your minions to walk, then tap where you’d like them to go or simply drag the stylus along the screen.
Slashing the stylus left to right over enemies and objects will have your minions attacking or interacting with things, respectively. This method of control can come in handy with things such as drag selecting your minions into a group or tapping the specific minion you wish to direct, but it also has its own share of problems that go along with it as well.
Unfortunately, the stylus controls featured in OM don’t live up to the standards set by the rest of the title. Slashing across the screen in order to attack/interact with objects rarely works well, often resulting in targeting the wrong enemy/object, or worse yet, sending your minion running towards danger rather than fighting it. Directing your minions by touching the screen is equally frustrating, especially when controlling all four, since the last couple in your line will often take damage from timed traps or simply get stuck on the environment. Moving one or two minions at a time can somewhat ease this problem, but it will also leave them more vulnerable to attack and it will take you much longer to complete each level.
The poorly executed controls really are a shame because otherwise OM is a fairly well done game. The concept is great, the levels are fun to think your way through, the boss battles are satisfying encounters, the graphics are quite respectable for a DS game, and there is a level of charm exuded by the various minions during the game’s still picture cinematics. It’s just too bad there isn’t another control option and the option that is available is so poorly implemented. However, if you don’t mind having to work around the game’s inaccurate stylus controls or can just deal with the irritating consequences it directly causes, then you’ll find a lengthy and mostly enjoyable experience in Overlord Minions.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
While not quite on par with the likes of Phantom Hourglass, Overlord Minions is a good-looking 3D adventure game on the DS. 2.4 Control
Unfortunately, stylus and touch screen controls are your only option here, and they aren’t nearly as accurate or trustworthy as they needed to be. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack and sound effects are decent but they can get repetitive quickly. 3.2
This is a fairly lengthy and enjoyable portable experience, although it is somewhat marred by the poorly done touch screen controls.
3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.