[Review] Minions Paradise – Build your doMinion of Distractivities

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Loving the city builders or the minions? Is it family time on your end? I suggest you check out Minions Paradise by Electronic Arts.

Despicable Me was a blast of an animated movie, and anyone who has kids in the household knows the characters’ names by heart. Well, perhaps not just the characters’ names, but also the plot of the subsequent Despicable Me 2, The Minions and the short animated series starring the girls and the minions that launched in between. And if you are a cool parent, your child’s toy box is full of Happy Meal minions, minion stickers, key chains, flashlights, pens, coloring books, photo frames, t-shirts and pajamas. Only minions could successfully compete with the Angry Birds line of merchandise for many families, and now there is no escaping the newly launched mobile game.

EA showcased Minions Paradise during this year’s E3, then soft-launched the game in select locations to test whatever they needed to test and balance whatever they needed to balance, and last Tuesday Minions Paradise launched worldwide. Whoever got the news early and installed the game within the first 48 hours should have gotten a free beginner pack, or something. I must admit EA did not limit the game to select locations for nothing. The game is well optimized, quite balanced in its monetization system, and offers plenty of city-building fun for free. Not all things will be clear to kids, especially those who can’t read, so parents’ assistance is advised. Why, it’s a game any city building fan can enjoy, irrespective of age. Let’s see why.

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Gameplay

If you have ever played any island or city builder, you will feel quite at home in Minions Paradise. As Phil arrives at the island, he gets a small tiki bar, with coconut water and stuff. From there, your activities will circle around the same pattern. Build structures, activate them to produce the goods, assign minions to work on the production of the said goods, collect goods, use them to craft more complex items, repeat the circle.

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The goods crafting structures come in a welcome variety, but you unlock only a few of them before the progress slows down. For example, you get the coconut tree to generate coconuts, a gas swamp to generate gas, a bamboo tree to generate the bamboo planks and the giant razor shell to generate razors. These are the basic elements you will need to produce more complex things in other different structures. At some point, you unlock the Recreation Center, which produces things like totems and skateboards. So, you will use the bamboo planks to produce skateboards. The Weaponry will produce more interesting stuff like the grenades, and you do remember the minions’ passion for guns, right? Besides grenades, the Weaponry also produces blades of several types. Both recreational center and the weaponry have about 8 types of goods they can produce, but they get unlocked at quite a slow pace.

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Besides, the goods production is tied into a tight knot of timers. While the production of the basic goods takes 1 to 3 minutes, and you always have enough minions to accomplish the tasks, the rec center and weaponry items take a while to craft, 20-30 minutes and up.

The monotony of the goods crafting routine is disrupted by several fun activities. First, there are new arrivals – the minions swimming to the shore. In order to keep them happy, you need to fill in their wish list on the message board. These wish lists usually contain an X number of the regular things you build on the island, and filling in each new character with these fun things will add you the in-game currency.

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Every time you level up, Phil throws a party and you can watch the minions dance. However, it’s a cut scene you can skip due to the lack of the meaningful action in it whatsoever. If you are looking to interact with minions directly, you can tap them when they hang around without doing any work. I did not expect them to be interactive, so I had a couple of surprise giggles as they started responding to my taps. One gasped in awe, like “who did this?” Another started dancing, the guy I think is named Kevin said “Hello!” They laugh, say short words in their gibberish minion speak, throw their teddy bears in the air and cry when they don’t catch them, pee in the fountains and have all sort of funny accidents at work. It is easy to miss this part behind the continuously repeating routine of collecting goods and ordering more goods, but it’s worth checking out the little nice touches EA added to its beloved characters.

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Next, there are the distractivities. These are structures you build, too. Unlike the goods generating structures, distractivities generate party points. These are the points needed to level up, and further you go, the more points you will need to level up. Pinata and hammock are the simplest of distractivities you unlock pretty soon, but the rest are quite expensive and take some grinding to build.

You can also build decorations, and they come in a great visual variety. I appreciate how EA made every structure description suitably minion-esque and fun to read.

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It’s Fun (until the novelty wears off)

One of the reasons the minions are so popular is because they’re little, goofy balls of laughter. They float in the outer space without the space suits, toy with grenades and big guns, poke one another and drive complex machinery without ever getting hurt. Whatever they do, they do with the main purpose of having fun, and only then completing the mission. Minions Paradise has lots of minions, and you get to interact a lot more with them than you could in Despicable Me Minion Rush.

Phil sinks the cruise ship with his brethren aboard. He does it with beauty and grace, with his sun lotion oiled butt literally. Luckily, they sank near an uninhabited island perfect for a hammock and Pina Colada chill out evening. But until that is possible, Phil has to break some sweat to prepare the island and meet his friends so that they forgive him the untimely demise of the cruise ship.

Minions arrive in small groups, but before long you have a bunch of them, cutting coconuts, partying, swinging in hammocks and peeing in the fountains. It’s all very fun and entertaining until the novelty wears off, however. To me, it happened right around level 7 when the progress slowed down. When it can happen to the young audience is a question we have yet to answer.

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Replay Value

Even though there are a lot of things to do in Minions Paradise, sometimes you need to take a break from collecting the goods and assigning the minions to craft them again, to lay in a hammock or to kick that pinata. So, you can have a short activity that differs in gameplay – the mini-games. All but one are locked, and you unlock them as you reach certain levels. You can, of course, unlock them via IAPs. Not sure if it’s worth the value, but the Alligator Fishing is fun enough to indulge in once in a while. However, I would not rush to pay cash to unlock the mini-games because once you play it once, you know all the ins and outs. At least that is the case with the first game.

Minion Rush keeps you busy at all times. You always have just enough minions to keep all the production processes running at all times. You always have a few minions hanging around doing nothing, so you can send them to generate some party points in the distractivities. In between the collecting goods and points taps, you can fill in the wish lists, provided you have enough materials.

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Then you can sell some of your stuff by creating a sell auction on the market. However, you will need to play with your friends to have someone to sell it to. If that’s not an option for you, there is the captain of the cruise ship. He can buy your items from time to time.

Overall, Minions Paradise is a busy place, and just when you think you are getting bored, you unlock a new area and can start cutting grass and clearing the area to build new things. It won’t be too fast without paying real money, though, because right after or during level 7 the progress slows down considerably. It’s too obvious when you notice how minions can use scissors to cut only one bush, and have to work hard to find another pair of scissors again. Why can’t they re-use the gardening appliances made to last for ages? Because you would progress much faster this way.

As a result, the several hours long gameplay sessions may become abruptly short, and if your storage is full you won’t be able to produce more goods, so until you solve that problem you have a serious clog on your hands.

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IAPs

I can’t say the paywall is a big problem in Minions Paradise, but the game progress will slow down once you think you know what you are doing. The key structure is an inconspicuous storage house that stores your coconuts, bamboo planks, grenades and all that fun assortment of silly things. As you would expect, the storage is not unlimited, and you need very specific and rare items to expand it. You don’t craft them, but find or buy from the market when you need them. The biggest problem is every upgrade of the storage gives you very meager improvement storage-wise.

As a result, you can get stuck with a load of items with nowhere to use them, and one mission you can’t accomplish because you need that specific number of bamboo planks, but you can’t collect them. Hence, you can’t produce them because the storage is full. You can try selling some items to the Captain, or your friends, but it does not solve the problem because the captain only wants specific items, and creating an auction does not guarantee you will actually sell something. Overall, I found the storage issue to be the most befuddling.

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Phil, being the lead guy, has missions for you, such as building a structure, fulfilling Bob’s wishes, or playing the mini-game, or crafting X number of this or that item. Pretty soon, though, you will want to explore the island on your own, without following Phil’s instructions step by step. Bad idea.

Perhaps the game is intentionally controlling the player because it’s slated for a young audience. However, it also chips away from the fun side by punishing unplanned activities. For example, as I wandered off site to explore the recently unlocked new island with the butterfly mini-game, I figured I had enough cash to clear some land and get closer to the butterflies. So, I spent the cash I was supposed to keep for a mission – building that frozen mountain, which keeps me stuck for several hours now because if I want to complete a missions I have to grind for the cash. Alas, could not know it beforehand. Building expensive decorations also feels useless in terms of functionality. Besides, there are no points for providing the minions with some aesthetic pleasure, so a word of advice – keep the decorations for later.

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The IAPs come in a great variety of packs and deals, as you would expect, from $3 to a few dozen dollars. The in-game currency is of several types. The Sand Dollars are the money you earn by completing the missions and fulfilling the minions’ wishes. Then there are Dubloons – the premium currency, the one that is hard to come by. Avoid spending it on fulfilling the minions’ wishes early in the game, because as with every other game, Minions Paradise gives you a handful of premium currency for free as you start playing, but move two levels in the game and the premium currency bonus runs dry, and you only get one or two once in a while.

The good part is there are only three in-game currencies (Sand Dollar, Dubloon and Party point), so you can wrap your head around them pretty fast. You can play it for free without paying for any IAPs, but be prepared for a significant slow down when you are about one third in the game. If waiting and grinding and looking for storage optimization options, which are limited, is your thing, you might be enjoying it for a good while. However, for the younger audience it’s a confusing and daunting task. Why, I myself don’t know how to solve that storage problem just yet.

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Design

Minions Paradise installs in low-res quality by default, but if you take a look at the game’s settings, you will find the option to download the HD pack, and then SD after that. The game looks lively, bright and colorful, and is eye-pleasing in every aspect, from the minions to the structures and their design. It’s perfectly Despicable Me in style, and any fan of the movie will appreciate the likelihood and the interactivity behind the main mechanics.

The sounds are funny, but become a bit annoying after a while, so it’s a good thing there s a way to mute or simply lower the volume. Overall, the art work is meticulously crafted to create the maximum likelihood to the original in every aspect – the looks, the moves, the humor, and I appreciate it.

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The Good

  • Cute, goofy, perfectly minion-style fun
  • Simple gameplay mechanics of a city builder
  • Long timers on complex items are disrupted by short timers on basic items, so you never feel like quitting the game and getting back to it when the timers are ready – the game always keeps you tapping
  • Plenty of content available for free
  • No ads
  • Very addicting
  • Has HD and SD visual packs
  • Vibrant design
  • Overall quite moderate IAP system
  • Good game for families and adult solo players, fans of the genre or the movie
  • Excellent performance

The Bad

  • Battery drain
  • Abrupt slow down in progress when the storage gets full
  • Managing the inventory can be a daunting task further in the game (when you are not paying)
  • Requires persistent Internet connection

Minions Paradise (52)Minions Paradise™

Developer: ELECTRONIC ARTS
Genre: Casual, Action & Adventure, City-building
Price: free to play, offers in-app purchases
Download from iTunes
Download from Google Play

The Verdict

Minion Paradise by EA is a very decent movie tie-in that preserves the original’s good looks, fun spirit and unique personality. EA built a city builder on top of that Minion premise and the two play very well together. There are plenty of things to do, lots of minions to poke, lots of cool items to unlock and expand your island doMinion. The game is quite solid and if it takes some grinding and thought to play it for free, we have no problem. There is a noticeable change of pace for the non-paying player after level 7, but if you want to invest in the game think well because you can’t buy the premium IAP-less version. Overall, the game is delightful, especially for the parents and kids to share some time together over a non-violent fun activity. The fans of the minions might feel compelled to invest real money in it, but I’m just not that addictive a personality.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gameplay
UI
Design
Replay Value
Content Available for Free
IAPs
Performance