Codemasters' and Climax Studios' Overlord Minions for the DS, unlike its next-gen brothers, puts the player in control of four "elite" minions, rather than the Overlord himself. This is quite a change for the franchise, as obviously, the Overlord is the main focus of the games. Does this create for a game that lacks substance, or are the Minions a worthy substitute for a ruthless Overlord?
As previously mentioned, the game focuses on four minions, the first being Giblet. He is very combat-focused, can move blocks and is resistant to wind. Stench is stealthier, can pass through poisonous gas and can also produce gas of his own. Blaze is a ranged fighter who can walk through flames, and can ignite Stench's gas, resulting in an explosion. Zap works mainly as a healer, but he's also the only one who damages magical enemies and walks over water.
Most of the game's puzzles combine the minion's powers to progress through an area, for example using Stench to create a path of gas towards a damaged wall, then having Blaze throw a fireball in to blow everything up. Unfortunate, this can get quite monotonous as there isn't a large deal of variation. While some puzzles are more complicated, they all involve the same basic steps of, "do this, and then do this" while never being difficult at all. It never gives a true feeling of challenge, but gives one of repetition instead.
On the subject of repetition, the controls are absolutely brutal. Since the stylus is used for everything, precise actions such as healing or positioning minions out of harm's way are difficult and frustrating. Healing in particular is a disaster as when healing Zap directly, the player doesn't swipe through him like with the other minions, instead he needs to be tapped. Usually this results in him taking a step forward, or attacking nothing. To move the squad of minions, the stylus must be dragged to the edge of the screen, but this can end up with a hand covering most of the screen blocking a large quantity of action.
It also doesn't help that the pathfinding is very basic as well. While controlling all your minions, one will often get stuck on a corner, then be unable to automatically catch up with the group. This applies to the enemies as well. On more than one occasion an enemy would be lured into a fire geyser and then try to chase my minion through a wall, then slowly burn to death. For actual combat, the player swipes the stylus through the enemy, and the minion attacks. To do a special attack, you tap the minion, though this seems to only work when you are running through a corridor, and never, ever in combat .Oddly enough, said special moves don't do that much more damage than a flurry of regular attacks, and with multiple minions, fights are over within seconds.
As for the story, it's fairly generic. The minions are tasked with finding the source of suspicious activities near the Overlord's tower, and then are lead on an investigation as to who is causing this. The narrative is boring and unfunny, a shame considering the satirical nature of the previous game. Any jokes are about farts or how Giblet only wants to bash things. Not to mention the cutscenes are incredibly simple, with any movement looking like a beginner's Flash project.
If there was one saving grace about Overlord: Minions, it would be the boss fights. They actually present some level of difficulty, and many use the minions' abilities in different ways. Now because minions actually stand a chance of dying, they often will, as bosses will do much more damage along with environmental hazards coupled with the difficulty of moving your minions out of harm's way.
What could have been a decent puzzle game is crippled by terrible controls and and overall flawed design. A challenge would have been welcome, but it's easy to see that this would have lead to frustration as players often fight the input itself. Boss battles are well done but certainly not enough to justify the trek to them. Overall, this minion is a letdown.