Mina & Michi
Developer: lightUp, Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): Puzzle, Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 30/06/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Another day, another new release from the console porting experts over at Ratalaika Games (though eastasiasoft are publishing). This time around it’s for Mina & Michi, the top-down 2D puzzler that launched on PC late last year. The game does add a twist to its puzzling antics – players have to control both characters at the same time as they lead them on their little adventure. It’s kinda like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons in a way… just nowhere near as good.
There isn’t really a story to follow in Mina & Michi. Players learn that the two protagonists are best friends and that they hate gelatine, which makes sense given that the enemies they face off against in the world are made of jelly. Players will also get to choose their favourite season, which determines the aesthetic of the starting area. You’ll travel through all seasons by the time you beat the game, but it is a nice little touch. Speaking of beating the game, Mina & Michi is pretty short. It took just over an hour to complete, so it’s not the longest of titles out there. Still, at less than a fiver, it’s hard to complain too much.
Keeping It Simple
As far as gameplay is concerned, Mina & Michi keeps things very simple. Players will navigate through a series of different areas, with each made up of small puzzles to solve, enemies to beat up, and gems to collect. Those gems are found by simply walking through the flora of the environment, so it’s easy to grab a ton of them over the course of the adventure.
The puzzles are of the block-pushing variety, with players having to shift them onto buttons to open pathways. It’s the sort of thing we’ve seen in video games for years really, so they should feel familiar to most gamers. The problem is, none were ever that challenging to solve in Mina & Michi – it was always clear where players had to push the blocks, whilst there were rarely any hazards to stop players from moving them. There aren’t any new ideas introduced to innovate the puzzle style, with everything instead feeling a little formulaic by the time you reach the end of the game.
Players won’t find challenge elsewhere in Mina & Michi, with enemies going down without much of a fight too. Mina is able to shoot at them from afar, whilst Michi does a spinning attack that’ll hit them close up. The enemies won’t do much to try and attack either character though, with each one simply moving around and rarely ever seeming to try and strike. Even the boss fights were easy, with each made up of bigger jellies that took more hits to defeat. The enemies just didn’t seem to bring anything to the fray, with each seemingly serving as simple fodder for players to take down.
It (Doesn’t) Takes Two
Players will spend all of their time-solving puzzles, beating up enemies, and moving to the next area, with Mina & Michi proving to be quite formulaic in design. As mentioned though, it does come with a twist: players control both characters at the same time. They can move Mina with the left stick and move Michi with the right stick, with their attacks and actions then assigned to the trigger buttons.
It’s a simple system that works well, whilst some puzzles will require both characters to solve. However, it does come with one big flaw: Michi is invulnerable to any hazards in the game. It deems Mina’s presence redundant for the most part, with any puzzles that involve evading hazards best left to Michi. Want to try to solve them with Mina? Expect one-hit kills if struck by a hazard. Why take the risk when Michi can do everything worry-free?
Aside from when you need to use her to solve a puzzle, I can’t see why players would want to use Mina at all. The game is unforgiving in design too, with hazards only needing to make the slightest of contact with Mina to kill her immediately. It just feels like a silly design choice, especially since the game is meant to be built around teamwork.
Pushing… But Not Pulling
With Mina & Michi not always utilising both protagonists efficiently, it could make some aspects of the game more annoying. For example, movement is limited if the two characters are too far away from each other. It’s the sort of thing players have been used to in same-screen multiplayer titles in the past, but it just felt unnecessary here. Sure, there will be times when you’ll have to use one of the characters to stand on a switch to open a pathway to the next area, but when that’s the ONLY thing they had to do, you have to wonder why the developer bothered having two characters at all.
There are also other annoying things, such as not being able to pull any of the blocks you push. There were a few times where I accidentally moved a block to the wrong space, which blocked another one off. The only solution? To leave and re-enter the room (or have Mina die) in order to reset their position. It does mean that players have to concentrate more, but it felt like more of a hindrance than anything.
It’s Not ALL Bad
It’s clear that my experience with Mina & Michi wasn’t really a great one, but I didn’t hate the game. Some of the puzzles were fun to solve, whilst the cute visuals were charming throughout. Players can even play the game in multiplayer, which might be nice for younger gamers looking for an easy-going puzzler. Sure, you might argue over who gets stuck with Mina, but it’s still a nice addition.
Mina & Michi is cute, but some basic puzzles, a lack of challenge, and the (mostly) redundant two-character mechanic make it hard to recommend. It’s a shame too because the concept is neat; it’s just not really executed efficiently. The cheap price may make it appealing, but there are better puzzlers to play on the Nintendo Switch.
Rapid Reviews Rating
2 out of 5
You can purchase Mina & Michi on the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.