Overlord: Minions marks the first time this deviant fantasy series has ventured into handheld territory. It initially appears to be a fun accompaniment to its console big brothers, boasting malevolent minions and conveniently downsized exploration well suited for the DS, but it swiftly devolves into a simplistic action puzzler plagued by poor controls. The game is ultimately a dull experience without any of the elements that make its console brethren so enjoyable.
Use teamwork and your minions' skills to plow through simple puzzles.
Minions opens similarly to its predecessors, casting you as the new overlord of all evil. A mysterious challenger is encroaching upon your kingdom, converting the locals to an oppressive cult that isn't yours. Gnarl, your senior henchman, has dispatched a team of four elite minions to uncover your rival's identity, and it's this minion commando unit that you control for the duration of the game. Though the plot provides a sufficient, familiar setting, it's largely flat and boring, replacing much of the series' twisted and fun nature with lame jokes that will have you rolling your eyes in dismay.
Basic exploration is true to the series if much more repetitive and tame, and you often need to solve environmental puzzles so the minions can clear a path to the next stage. Puzzles frequently require you to switch between minions so you can use each gremlin-like creature's unique set of skills, such as Zap's ability to walk through water or Giblet's talent for pushing boxes. Your four minions have some interesting skills at their disposal, the problem is that they're rarely used in interesting ways. Stench drops gas bombs near crumbling walls, and Blaze uses fireballs to ignite those gasses and bring the walls down. Those same fireballs can be used to light torches that, in turn, unlock doors. Most of the puzzle elements are this simple and bland, and too much time is spent pushing boxes around and searching for keys. You occasionally encounter foes that attempt to spruce up the puzzling by triggering scripted events, but if your minions are in the wrong place when these events occur some poor level design can result in them becoming trapped. The only solution to this particularly frustrating puzzle? Restart the stage.
A shallow combat system fails to enliven the experience. Most enemies attack head-on and are quickly hacked to pieces. You do have access to minion-specific special attacks, such as Giblet's head-butt stun, but these commands are easier to ignore than they are to use effectively, so what you're left with is monotonous stylus-slashing that works even against tougher opponents. Strategy comes into play only in boss fights built around short puzzles, most of which are immediately obvious and involve beating the boss to a pulp between tactically positioning objects, such as bombs. The lack of minion leveling and skill upgrading is a disappointing step back for the series, as both features would have provided some much-needed depth and variety.