As you have no doubt discovered during your own journey through life, it can be an emotional roller coaster; full of highs, lows, and everything in-between. As such, you might expect a game called Minabo: A Walk through Life to be an emotional journey of its own, but you would be mistaken. Instead, it is a social simulation more akin to something like The Sims, only it is far more rudimentary than that. Minabo’s surprising lack of heart means that, like many of the turnips you meet in the game, this social sim will likely come and go without making you feel much of anything.
The primary issue with Minabo is that there is just not a compelling hook. A game can be a social simulation game with no heart – that is perfectly fine – but there has to be something that keeps players wanting more if you are going to lean so heavily on the gameplay itself.
In Minabo, you assume the role of a newly sprouted (born) turnip, and you see them all the way through to the conclusion of their life journey. Fear not, as it is not that big of a time commitment, with each life only taking about 15 to 20 minutes to finish, after which you can spin up the simulation once more. That’s a lap time that makes our own simulation look like a joke in comparison, am I right? I digress.
At the beginning of the game, you can only play Missions mode, which is a series of pre-built scenarios with various completion requirements. For example, one might ask you to live until age 70 while having three kids and one pet. Another will require you to die at age 27 while surrounded by two children and one best friend. After you complete the first five missions, you will unlock Free Life mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. It removes all of those completion requirements in favor of letting you play whichever way you choose, quite literally letting you live and die by your own choices.
After you sprout from the ground as a fresh anthropomorphic turnip, you will begin crawling, and eventually walking, by simply holding the cross button (or similar input). As you walk through life, you will meet many fellow turnips, and it is up to you how you choose to engage with them. You can completely ignore them or you can bring them into your social circle to walk alongside you on your journey. Interacting with other turnips is nearly as simple as walking, requiring you to select them with the analogue stick and choose an action that affects one of three basic needs: physical contact, intimacy, and belonging. Keeping all three needs fulfilled increases your life expectancy, but it also plummets if you neglect them for too long. The same rules also apply to the turnips in your social circle, and if you want them to live long lives, you must fulfill their needs as well.
The turnips you meet can slot into various roles, from acquaintances to partners and even pets – which are actually radishes. The outcome of these veggie-on-veggie interactions depends upon a meter attached to each action that indicates the chance of success. As you might have guessed, successful interactions have a positive effect on all parties involved, while unsuccessful ones will cause your basic need levels to drop. As in real (human) life, your relationship status with other turnips can change depending on the attention you are giving each individual relationship. Friends can become either acquaintances or best friends depending on how much effort you put into to interacting with them, for instance. There are also items in the world that force you to make decisions about others in your circle. Some items (like apples and mushrooms) increase or decrease life expectancy, while one means instant death for whoever consumes it – including you. I’m probably making it all sound more complicated than it really is; the whole process is actually rather simple and borderline mindless after a while.
As you saunter through the world of Minabo, time moves quickly and the seasons change even faster. So too does the appearance and sound of the turnips, which I must admit is quite cute. For example, Turnips over 50 years-old will start to walk slower and sound older, grumpier even, in addition to also looking droopy in the face as the in-game years fade. Minabo has charming character design, but unfortunately, it was still not enough to make me feel attached to any of the turnips that crossed my path. The issue is exacerbated by a large quantity of turnips you will encounter over the course of a life – they come and go, and some you might miss altogether.
This probably won’t come as a surprise to most, but the larger your social circle is in Minabo, the more difficult it becomes to manage. Not only because of the inherent challenge of fulfilling the needs of so many people, but also because the screen will be so full of turnips at times that it makes selecting and interacting with the right friend or family member a hassle. There is also a weird difficulty spike in the fourth mission that introduces a wrinkle that raises the stakes and frustrated me for a good while. Without spoiling the experience, I was not moving fast enough in life to avoid a hazard (aren’t we all?) but that’s because I was too busy trying to tend to my needs and the needs of my circle. Thankfully, it is not always present in the missions that follow, but there are other similar variations to the formula.
It feels so strange to play a game themed around the journey of life and for it not to move me emotionally in any way. I still cannot get over it even as I am writing this review. Nevertheless, I have come to terms with the fact that Minabo: A Walk through Life is simply not that kind of game, but it sorely needs an emotional punch. It bills itself as a social life simulator, and while it certainly is that, it is not a very compelling sim experience – lacking a much needed gameplay hook to keep you coming back.
Minabo: A walk through life has an interesting idea at its core, but ultimately it is not a jaunt worth taking. A lack of heart and the absence of a compelling gameplay hook are obstacles simply too large to overcome.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the resident noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband to a human and a father to two canines. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5, PS VR2, and PS Vita, although I've dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC in the past. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.