Don’t Die, Minerva!, good life advice – First Sip Review
Don’t Die, Minerva! is a rogue-lite action RPG set in a spooky mansion. Developed by Xaviant Games who are also pulling double duties with publishing.
On a dark and stormy night, 11-year-old Minerva stumbles into a spooky courtyard. Inside the courtyard lies an even spookier haunted mansion, it’s up to Minerva to pluck up her courage and explore if she has any hope of escaping alive.
Minerva begins the game by mentioning that she cannot find her mother or father and is indeed quite lost. Being lost and alone would be a problem for most people let alone an 11-year-old. However, Minerva is no normal girl, she has courage to spare and will jump headfirst into adventure. In addition, she’s also not alone, spooky spirits like the butler Mr. Butterworth who holds his own head on a platter, are there to guide her.
The haunted mansion other than being filled with ghosts, traps and an ever-shifting layout also contains magic which can bring young Minerva’s stuffed toys to life. And turns her flashlight into a weapon. But what other mysterious secrets does it hold?
Graphically Don’t Die, Minerva! is quite gorgeous, a lot of dark colors with bright glowing objects to stand out. Ghost enemies come in all shapes and sizes, including generic sheet ghosts, bats and plenty more.
But the real winner here is the art design in general. The mansion’s rooms are packed with jack o’ lanterns, vases and all manner of traps. Some rooms also contain furniture such as a striped couch that reminds me of Beetlejuice. The effects of your flashlight weapon also look quite nice, from a regular flashlight then can be changed in color via a gemstone, to a heavy flashlight that shoots orbs of light and plenty more.
Minerva’s design is fantastic, she is an adorable character. Black hair in pigtails that is dyed blue at the tips, leggings with leg bones on them, a funky shirt with a ghost on it and a large head with even larger eyes. Minerva carries an almost Coraline vibe to her design, with maybe a little Wednesday Adams and a touch of Lenore among others. Although her design might have some things in common with other spooky girls she does feel like her own character and I grew to like her virtually instantly.
The music in DDM! is quite nice, a lot of spooky organs and fun percussion. Pretty much what you’d expect from a cartoonish dark game or show. It fits in really well and also helps alert you when enemy ghosts appear or when you have defeated them all.
Sound design is also quite solid, outside you can hear ambient wind noises which really sets the atmosphere. Using your flashlight you can hear Minerva actually click to activate it. And your stuffed friends such as the monkey or cat make noises when you summon them and when they are attacked or launch attacks. For instance, summoning the cat will make a squeaking noise and then the kitty will meow as it runs around trying to bite ghosts.
The objective of the game is to explore as far as you can in the mansion. Taking the elevator in the house will allow you into Level One, finding the exit elevator will allow you to the next floor, etc. While each floor has an elevator to move to the next one they also have other special rooms such as the large chest room (which can be opened by gaining a key from a strong enemy). And most importantly the fountain room. The fountain is a unique room on each level that allows you to warp out of the mansion back to the courtyard. From the courtyard, you can buy items from the merchant or upgrade via Mr. Buttersworth.
Upgrades are purchased via Essence, which can be found while exploring the mansion. Each upgrade costs a certain amount of Essence and can be purchased gradually so you can put 9 Essence towards something that costs 250, meaning 241 more Essence will be required to unlock it. It can be tempting to keep the Essences until you can afford an upgrade but this is a risky move.
DDM! is a rogue-lite game, each run you will be likely to collect more stuff but you also lose it all when you die. Dying will make it so you lose all equipment, money, and essence, which is why it is best to spend the Essence when you can. Losing everything (especially a beloved stuffed animal) can be disheartening but the game tells you how to avoid this…Don’t Die, Minerva!
Loot, so much loot!
DDM! also uses a loot system. Minerva can equip a flashlight, a stuffed animal, a necklace, a backpack and boots (at first). And you can find any of these items from a defeated enemy, opened chest or even a smashed object if you’re lucky. All items will have stats including an element that may change your playstyle, and both the flashlight and stuffed toy can have a gemstone attacked to increase their power.
Later in the game, if you purchase a certain upgrade you will be able to sell unwanted items for coins. You can also buy loot from the store in the courtyard. But one of the best features of the game is object memory, when you leave a room and re-enter the items will still be there, even if you use the fountain to head to the courtyard and then back, the items will remain. Perfect for when you just want to try a new weapon without losing your old one.
As an Early Access game, there are a few issues with DDM! currently, but nothing game-breaking. I found that I could walk through some objects in the courtyard (mostly pumpkins) and one of Mr. Butterworth’s lines of dialogue was just placeholder text. But the game ran smoothly, the controls are responsive and I never experienced a cheap death. It always felt like when I died it was due to my mistakes rather than an overpowered enemy or unfair situation.
DDM! is a fun game and gives you that one more run feeling that the best rogue-lites can cultivate. With procedurally generated levels and random loot drops each run I experienced different things and it still felt fresh to me as I played.
Review scores have been requested to be held until the game’s completion, so keep posted for the future.
In Coffee Terms
Don’t Die, Minerva! in coffee terms is like a straight black coffee with whipped cream on top. And on the whipped cream is a bat made out of chocolate. It’s pleasing to look at and both cute and spooky at the same time. But the real heart of the drink once you take all the other stuff off the top is just a solid well-made coffee. All the flavors you want and expect are present, it’s obvious the barista knows what they are doing and has a genuine love of the art form.
Don’t Die, Minerva! Links
Don't Die, Minerva! Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.