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Review: Minabo: A Walk Through Life

Life like weeds

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Each and every one of us walks through life without knowing exactly our purpose and then dies no closer to the truth. We struggle every day to find the things and people that make our existence feel even momentarily worthwhile. No matter what happens, how much wealth we acquire, or who we share our lives with, death is a solitary experience that we face alone.

But at least we’re not turnips.

Minabo A Walk Through Life Moths

Minabo (PC [Reviewed], PS4, PS5, Switch)
Developer: DevilishGames
Publisher: DevilishGames
Release: April 28, 2023
MSRP: $14.99

Minabo: A Walk Through Life attempts to frame the endless trials of existence in a cute game about turnips. You follow your lumpy blob of emotions from birth until the merciful release of death. Along the way, you can make friends! Or don’t. You can also have pets, but maybe you don’t want to. You can try to give your turnip the best possible life or have them be an unsympathetic hedonist who everyone hates.

Sort of.

Most of the gameplay involves walking to the right side of the screen. Your turnip is on a perpetual journey until they keel over. A metaphor for life. The people you meet along the way grow closer and sometimes get further away. You can even leave them behind. Relationships can be fleeting or solid, but it all depends on you and the person you’re with.

Minabo is a very simple game. Much of it is just tapping the space bar to make your turnip walk, and the other part is clicking another turnip in your path and selecting one of three options. They’re three different social interactions, and each will have its own chance of success based on various factors. I only know what a few of these factors are, because Minabo doesn’t tell you anything. Mostly, it just seems out of your control, just like life.

I tried to get a handle on what Minabo is supposed to be, and I landed on it being a game that encourages experimentation. I tried to use it as a storytelling device, much like I would with The Sims, but so little happens throughout your turnip’s journey from cradle to grave. You can challenge yourself by being as polyamorous as possible. You can try having as many kids as possible and then immediately abandoning them. But these are things that only require a single playthrough, and there aren’t that many variations.

You can also win hats. Hats do various things, including allowing your turnip to marry its sibling. Hilariously it’s the crown that allows this. I’m shook. Turnip society is very unjudgmental, but I can’t help but jam my eyes into the sides of my sockets for this one. I tried having my turnip wear the crown once, and I now wish to purge my memory of incestuous turnips. It’s not that it’s explicit about it. It just feels wrong.

And then I failed the mission because I had to have my turnip die alongside a sibling, and once they become a… ugh… partner, they stop being a sibling. I don’t think that’s how that works.

Minabo A Walk Through Life Mr. Destructoid
Screenshot by Destructoid

You only live twice

I quit playing at about that time because I scrolled through the list of remaining missions and decided I’d seen enough. Some of the missions throw in instant death if you don’t live your life fast enough, but it’s not really much of a variation. Playing through a single mission takes an excruciatingly long time, even if you hurry your turnip to the final embrace of eternal obscurity.

It’s just so tedious, clicking on turnips and hoping they’re receptive to each of your commands. There’s no skill involved, which is fine, but so much of it feels random and out of your hands. I guess it’s an accurate representation of my life because it’s entirely out of my control, and I have to live by rules that I don’t fully understand.

It’s simple to a fault. This game is supposedly about life, but these turnips are completely unrelatable. They can’t see very far into the past, so they’re hardly the sum of all their actions and memories. They can’t see into the future, so they don’t know hope or dread. All they do is trek along. If they see a tombstone that says “acquaintance” on it, you can choose if they cry or curse the name.

Minabo was developed with the help of psychologists, which is maybe why it’s so healthy and wholesome. You fill your turnip’s social needs, but unlike an actual human, they don’t need to beg, borrow, or steal for it. If you want a polyamorous turnip, they don’t have to balance the feelings of their other partners because these vegetables don’t feel jealousy or resentment. This is why people don’t love turnips as much as their cousins, the potato: they’re just so boring!

Sibling Romance
Screenshot by Destructoid

The simple life

It’s not that Minabo has absolutely no value. It’s a unique experience and perspective, and that’s value right there. However, while trying to create a facsimile of life, it just comes across as safe and boring. The best parts of it are when you think you’re doing something naughty or evil and nobody cares. It’s so hollow without any tension or chaos. The entire concept of walking ceaselessly through life suggests entropy, and there’s none.

Minabo boils life down a bit too far. Life is so unbearably exhausting and complicated, and Minabo is boring and simple. It’s not that I think that it needs to be crushingly depressing or maddeningly frustrating, but there needs to be some sort of conflict or tension. Don’t ask me to walk through life 25 times with only minor differences each time. Once is more than enough.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

Below Average
Have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst, but difficult to recommend.

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.