Ratalaika is a publisher known for releasing affordable games with colorful pixel art and super easy Achievements and Trophies. One of their latest releases is Mina & Michi, a puzzle action game from one-man developer LightUP and co-published by Eastasiasoft. Mina & Michi’s Achievements are indeed ridiculously easy to unlock, but it’s still a decent local co-op puzzle game for kids that hearkens back to the days of NES and GameBoy design.
Mina & Michi begins with a startlingly unimaginative intro cinematic. Mina, a little girl, tells her friend Michi, a big blue monster, that she remembers when they met... Then the game starts. That’s it! At least depict a cute situation that shows them meeting or something, you know? There are no mid-game cinematics, which is probably for the best.
When starting a new game, players will select a difficulty level and their favorite season. The game progresses through the seasons as you play, so the choice just determines which visual theme you’ll see first. I prefer the cooler seasons, don’t you?
Mina & Michi is a puzzle action game designed around cooperation between the two characters. When playing solo, you’ll control Mina with the left stick and trigger and Michi with the right stick and trigger. A couple of minor actions are mapped to the face buttons, but you won’t need them often.
Starting a co-op game is a bit tricky in Mina & Michi. Most games would either have gamers select Co-op from the main menu or allow a second player to join in by pressing a button. Neither of those options works here. As it turns out, you must press a specific face button (B on Xbox, A on Switch) on the first player controller to add a second player. Not a major inconvenience, but the odd design choice is likely to confuse first-time players.
When the game begins, Mina and Michi have no abilities other than walking. Soon, they’ll find items that allow them to push blocks and attack enemies. Switch puzzles are the main challenge of the game. Both players often need to coordinate to push blocks onto the correct switches without getting a block stuck anywhere. Leaving and then re-entering a room resets the blocks, so mistakes aren’t a big deal, thankfully.
Enemies also present a challenge to our protagonists. Many rooms have paths or items that only become accessible after all enemies are defeated. Combat is where Mina and Michi differ from each other. Mina can take damage from enemies but Michi is invincible, so you’ll want to have the most inexperienced player control Michi. Although he can't be harmed, Michi’s melee attacks consume stamina, preventing him from attacking endlessly. Mina gets a ranged attack that allows her to stay out of harm’s way while fighting.
The game is broken up into large season-based areas. Each area holds numerous rooms to clear and keys to find before the boss door can be opened. Bosses are big and cute. They also die extremely quickly on Easy difficulty, so consider playing on Normal or above if you’re not just rushing through for Achievements. Each new area brings a new item or two that gives our heroes new abilities, so the game does gain some depth as it goes on.
Speaking of Achievements, this is one of those Ratalaika games that lets you unlock all of the Achievements very early in the game. The last one, for beating the second boss, took me 32 minutes to accomplish. There’s still plenty of game after that, but no more Trophies or Achievements. I’d prefer to unlock something for actually finishing the game, but Ratalaika likes to give everything out in a hurry. On Xbox, the second player does not earn Achievements.
Mina & Michi is a cute and colorful game that is best played in local co-op. The gameplay isn’t too complex and there’s no real story to move things along, but simple games can still be enjoyable. There are two real audiences for this title: Achievement/Trophy hunters and young players. Priced at five bucks, it shouldn’t break the bank for either group. If you’re going to play a quick and deliberately disposable game like Mina & Michi, it might as well be one that features co-op!
An Xbox code was provided by the publisher for review.
The Co-Op Experience: During the game, press the "Game Mode" button to switch to co-op. Both players must work together to solve switch puzzles. Michi can't be harmed by enemies. Mina is vulnerable to enemies but has a ranged attack.
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