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The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

So the review code arrives in the office. We turn it on, eagerly anticipating another beautiful adventure. Anticipating the surprises Nintendo have up their sleeves and grinning ear to ear at the mere thought of - ... er, hang on... there's something not quite right here. After the title screen fades away we're asked to choose from 'Dungeon1' or 'Dungeon2'. Asked whether we want to begin in the 'Field' or in the 'Village'. This wasn't quite the way we thought the game would start. It's not quite the kind of surprise we were expecting from Nintendo...

We choose the 'Village' option and the game begins. Link is tucked up in bed along side his Minish Cap. 'This is more like it!' we think to ourselves - and then it hits us. Hits us like a cruel kick in the plums. Link wakes up and his bird-like titfer comes out with the not-so-classic line of dialogue, "Today's the day of the ever-incredible E3 show". What? E3? We swear blind, you could hear our collective screams half a mile away. This wasn't review code. It was the E3 demo we played over five months ago. Was this what we were expected to review the game from? Apparently (and outrageously) so.

This is unacceptable, of course. Would you review a book after only reading a couple of chapters? We wouldn't. You deserve better than that. We'd like to keep our integrity intact, thank you very much - and we certainly like to sleep at night knowing we haven't lied to you or intentionally deceived you. So bear this in mind - when you read a review of Minish be aware that the only available code in the UK at the time of writing is an E3 demo. It's all anyone's being given. Four tiny, tantalising parts of the finished game...

So, no score then. We will, however, describe what we've played so far. Think of it as a teaser, to let you know in-depth what sort of thing you can expect, before we actually get the finished game.

'Field' is the first area of the demo. You guide Link around a little woodland area and place him on a tree stump. There's not a lot going on in the main woodland, but a quick tap on the R button prompts the Minish Cap into chanting a little incantation, and before you know it Link's falling into the stump - shrinking with every downward bounce on a clump of little toadstools. When you eventually emerge from the tree stump you're a mere few pixels tall, allowing you access to areas in the woodland that were previously inaccessible and pretty much invisible.

It's only when you enter the little Minish village here that the game really starts to impress. While the normal-sized Link's overworld looks just as you'd expect, the tiny world of the Minish people is utterly enchanting. Huge leaves, blades of grass and delicately coloured flowers frame the paths you follow and hang above in the foreground, giving not just a sense of depth, but a level of detail we haven't seen on a 2D Zelda game in an absolute age. Only Four Swords has come close - and that's not available in Europe, so Minish will be a revelation to gamers over here.

Work through the tiny Minish village and you enter the first dungeon. It's dead small and the puzzles involve nothing more then pushing blocks around. No surprises there, then, with your acquisition of a magic jar being the only thing worth of note. This jar lets you suck objects from afar as well as shoot out puffs of air at enemies. Try it out on nearby patches of dirt and the effect is stunning - the little gusts throw up swirls of dust in a way that's strangely reminiscent of the cel-shaded effects in Wind Waker.

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