Minoria is the latest action-platforming game from developer Bombservice, creators of the Momodora series to which Minoria is a spiritual successor. Minoria is about two nuns of an inquisition, Sisters Fran and Semilia, being sent on a mission to rescue the Princess of their kingdom from a group of witches who they are to then kill. As one might guess for a story about inquisitions and witches written after the 19th century, things quickly become muddled and cause the player/characters to question whether they are in the right as servants of The Church (spoilers: no). Despite the predictability of the game’s moral conclusions, the journey that takes Fran and Semilia from being devout sisters of the inquisition to doubting the actions of their faith is a compelling one, and I was glad to see the writers didn’t shy away from critiquing religious hegemony.
As a game, Minoria plays much like one of the more recent 2D Castlevania games. Combat is based primarily around swords, which the player picks up more of as they go with varying movesets and special abilities. The weight of hits feels good and pairs well with the general look of the game and its animations, which are this weird blend of not-quite-low poly graphics and an oddly satisfying intentionally jerky-smoothness, and all of this pairs especially well with the game’s muted but gorgeous color palette. It’s difficult to describe, especially since it seems like something that shouldn’t work, but it definitely does, and I’d recommend watching a trailer or a gameplay video to get a better sense of how the game moves.
All that said, though the graphic design of the game generally works pretty well, I thought the dodge-roll didn’t have quite the tactile feel it needed in order to be an effective tool for the player, which made it a lot harder to get the timing of it down than dodge rolls in, for instance, Enter the Gungeon or Bloodborne. This combined with the fact that even many basic enemies can kill you in literally two consecutive hits made the game very difficult for me, frustratingly so at times. I’m not sure if I was missing something or what, but it definitely detracted from my enjoyment even if dying never sends you back very far. On the other hand, rolling works such that you can go straight from one into the next, and so when not fighting you can just roll around. The animation makes it such that you’re bounding around on all fours like some feral little beast, which was amusing to say the least, so points for that.
I already touched earlier on the game’s narrative, and while I appreciated it overall for its thematic content and tone I took issue with how… horny some of the designs are. The Princess you’re tasked with saving, many of the bosses, and even the player character Sister Semilia all have sexualized designs which are just plain discordant with the grim nature of the events unfolding around them. The Princess’ idle animation even has her breasts bouncing gently as she breathes, which is just unsettling when you’re having conversations about mass slaughter and witch burnings. It’s not enough to put me off from the game completely, and lord knows I’ve enjoyed games that did worse in the same vein – I did, after all, grow up playing video games in the 2000s – but I still wish developers would stop doing that.
Despite a few mixed feelings, I can still fairly confidently give Minoria a recommendation. When the combat and exploration work they really work, and any frustrations to be had around the game’s difficulty can easily be overcome because of the relatively small scale of things. To top it off, I know I’m not alone in loving stories that critique Catholicism, even by proxy, so there’s plenty to enjoy here for all sorts of gamers.
Some tonal and gameplay gripes don't stop this from being an enjoyable game to cloister yourself up with for an extended afternoon.