Minigames. Easily one of the most hated signs of developer laziness or uninspired design, right next to invisible walls and boss fights that “you’re not supposed to win.” Can’t figure out how to get your story from one location to another? Copy and paste a driving segment from a 12 year old game. Haven’t got an idea for something that could happen in the next town? Force the hero into some sort of tournament. If possible, make the controls wonky as hell and strip the player of all previous abilities, dropping them into a controller-breakingly frustrating piece of ass. Oh, and it’s *required* to finish the game.
But truth be told, that’s only the bad minigames. While many times they are terrible annoyances that detract from the experience, just as often they’re fun and well implemented enough to be important parts of a title. The best minigames can draw players back for countless rounds or start new files just to play them again. Sometimes, they’re even good enough to be games in their own right. So today, we’re gonna talk about five minigames that deserve recognition for their greatness. And if you’ve never played these games, please do them justice. You won’t regret it.
The Sonic the Hedgehog series has been rife with minigames since its creation, from bouncing around rotating worlds to gather chaos emeralds in Sonic 1 (yay!) to pressing buttons on a VMU to raise your chao in Sonic Adventure (boo…). But no Sonic minigame has ever been able to top the chaos emerald gathering special stages from Sonic 2. Fitting, since no Sonic game has ever trumped Sonic 2 period.
Sprinting headlong down what appears to be a bobsled track, Sonic 2 asks you to gather rings sitting in the tube while avoiding the damaging…billiard balls waiting to take your rings back. Earn enough rings to continue past each section of the stage, and you’ll nab yourself a chaos emerald, which of course allow you to break the game and become Super Sonic once you’ve got all seven.
Sonic 2’s Special Stage is notable for three reasons over all other Sonic minigames. First, it didn’t insult your intelligence by being overly easy/simple like the special stages in Sonic 1, nor did it cause rage fits like the fantastically difficult special stages in Sonic 3 and Knuckles. Second, a friend could pick up a controller and help out by taking control of Tails, making the run for each emerald a competition to see who could make the best run or jump ahead of the other player at precisely the right moment. Third, and most importantly, it actually gave a reason for people to hate Tails *before* he started speaking. When not controlled by a human player, Tails would still follow slowly behind Sonic, gathering rings for your combined total, but losing them to stage traps just as quickly. Not only was it annoying, but he could even cause you to lose the stage if you were counting on him gathering a few rings for you.
Bayonetta: Angel Attack
After a long day of slaughtering the angelic masses, there’s nothing Bayonetta likes to relax with more than a lollipop, poised in her favorite stripper pose, and…slaughtering the angelic masses. Kind of a one track mind. This year’s incredible hit Bayonetta proved that even an adrenaline filled action slasher in the vein of Devil May Cry can take a moment to calm down and collect itself while still maintaining its sense of style, and be damn fun while doing it.
After each level, players are given a handful of bullets and treated to an arcade shooting gallery filled with angels. Sending these angels to the Inferno builds up points, which can then be traded for items or money to use in the regular game. Blasting apart angels in rapid succession or with head shots provide bonus points to build up even higher scores. Extra bullets can be obtained through careful searching of the environments in each level, rewarding diligent players while being fair to those just running through.
Angel Attack stands out from normal shooting gallery minigames in that it takes no special effort to get there, nor does it deplete resources for the regular game like Dead Space or Resident Evil’s shooting galleries do. You stand only to gain during Angel Attack. Couple that with the fact that it makes perfect sense for an angel hunter to have a minigame about destroying more angels, and that playing the game well can provide essential benefits not available anywhere else (specifically in the form of additional life saving items), and there’s no reason not to get excited for every round in this gallery.
Oh, and there’s no time limit, so no pressure. Platinum Games has your back like that.