Overlord: Minions
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-07-20 Nintendo DS Action/Puzzle E10 (Everyone 10+) Climax Studios / Codemasters

The original Overlord received praise for being a unique take on the adventure genre that asked players to tap into their devious desires and become truly evil, while presenting a humorous, albeit shallow, storyline that introduced the world to Overlord's (arguably) best feature: the minions.

Where the console versions of Overlord are already loosely structured, this DS offering becomes even more so by focusing solely on the Overlord's faithful, yet zany minions, and introduces a bizarre storyline concerning a disease that is overtaking villagers and a group of villains that wish to remove the Overlord from his throne.

By only utilizing the stylus for the controls, the game captures the feeling of allowing you, as the Overlord, to control your minions via your very thoughts, as you remain an invisible presence in the game. However, actually controlling your minions is a very two-sided experience.

Overlord: Minions plays as an action puzzler that allows you to control a single representative from each of the four minion types: Giblet, the Brown fighter who focuses on close-range melee attacks, Blaze, the Red minion who controls fire and can lob fireballs at opponents, Zap, the Blue swimmer who can lower bridges for his companions to cross and Stench, the Green imp who is immune to toxic gas and can thereby reach many geographical locations that the other three minions cannot.

Each level is played from a top-down perspective and has you tapping on either individual or groups of two or more minions to select and move them about the environment with a drag of the stylus. Minions can also be isolated from each other in certain puzzle-solving situations, when Stench must enter a poisoned area to flip a switch, or when Zap needs to activate something in the middle of a lagoon. The game handles these instances well, by allowing you to switch back and forth between minions on the fly with another simple tap of the stylus.

Enemies appear at regular intervals, and can be attacked by sliding the stylus across their bodies, causing Giblet to start slashing at them with his claws, or by tapping on them, to send Blaze into a fire-ball slinging frenzy, that is, in theory.

While pressing buttons to open locked passageways or simply moving minions around the environment works as advertised, the rest of the controls here are highly unresponsive, especially when picking up items with a tap and trying to convey to your minions that you want them to throw the item, and not simply set it down again.

There are breakable items strewn throughout the landscape that renew your minions' health and magical abilities, as well as hints that serve as a sort of non-stop tutorial, if you choose to pause long enough to interact with them.

When things work as they should, the game becomes an endearing romp through another comedic chapter in the Overlord saga, complete with the charming sound effects and clever graphics that make your minions look and sound more like gremlins than creatures from the Netherworld, but at its worst becomes practically unplayable as you sit forever tapping on an enemy that Blaze must attack (either because he is the only minion in the area, or because the monster is only vulnerable to fire) just to see him stand there, motionless, as if the screen hasn't been touched.

Codemasters deserves credit for trying something new in the Overlord universe, but disappointingly, Overlord: Minions is an unfortunate case of untapped potential. The puzzles here are clever and creative, and do require a bit of forethought, but, along with every other aspect of the game, are less likely to be enjoyed (and in later levels even reached) due to the game's skewed control responsiveness.

Special thanks to David Saba and Codemasters for providing a copy of this title.