‘Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince’ review: a link to the past

A charming top-down adventure that borrows heavily from the Hyrule book

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince might just be the greatest compliment The Legend Of Zelda has ever received. While countless video games have gladly borrowed from Nintendo’s legendary IP over the years, I’m not sure few have ever cribbed quite as blatantly or consistently as developer Castle Pixel has here.

This won’t come as a huge surprise to you if you played 2017’s Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, itself a loving tribute (if we’re being polite) to the adventures of Link. There are blocks to push, walls to bomb, and heart pieces to collect in a top-down world filled with dungeons, secrets, and bosses with such glaringly obvious weak spots we’re amazed their mates never told them. Come on Derek, maybe tape over that giant glowing eye on your chest when the hero comes to slay you.

All of this and more is present in The Minotaur Prince, by which I mean Castle Pixel has basically filled the sequel with more stuff from past Zelda games that it couldn’t fit into The Sleeping King. A magic instrument with songs that have mysterious effects on the world? Check. A mythical sword you can’t pull from the ground until you have enough hearts? Check. Talking trees? Check. A mirror shield that reflects enemy beams? I think you know the answer.

Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. Credit: Castle Pixel.
Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. Credit: Castle Pixel.

At least the game’s story has had some original thought put into it. A misguided wish made by an angry sibling causes a demonic entity to appear and steal a small child away to a labyrinth full of – oh, nope. Never mind. Originality wasn’t high up on Castle Pixel’s to-do list, I guess. But it’s kind of hard to be mad about it when The Minotaur Prince is as much fun as it is.

There’s simply no getting around the fact that The Minotaur Prince is honestly kind of a blast, one that beautifully scratches the itch for a new top-down Zelda adventure, something we haven’t actually had for coming up to a decade (ignoring remakes). It has its problems, certainly, but there are enough jokes, challenges, and well thought-out puzzles peppered throughout the 10-hour adventure to ensure it delivers a thoroughly charming bite-sized blast of nostalgia that has the wherewithal to wrap up long before you start thinking about calling Nintendo’s lawyers.

Like its predecessor, The Minotaur Prince begins with a kindly old man gathering his grandchildren Lily and Chrys around the fire to tell of the exploits of a hero and her brother (also named Lily and Chrys, in a shocking coincidence). While the idea of a story within a story isn’t necessarily the most fascinating new idea, there’s a lot of humour to be mined from the way the siblings’ constant bickering plays out over the adventure.

Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. Credit: Castle Pixel.
Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. Credit: Castle Pixel.

The two children react to some of the game’s more troubling developments in a sweet way that keeps the action light, and repeatedly call out their grandfather for some of his more out-there storytelling choices. At various points throughout the game, you can even side with Lily or Chrys to decide which direction the story should take, although more often than not this boils down to the type of enemy you fight. If explored even further, this is the kind of idea that could really have separated The Minotaur Prince from the pack of Zelda wannabes. As it stands, it’s just a neat concept that adds in some extra self-aware jokes.

As Lily The Hero sets out to rescue her brother from the evil David Bow- I mean, the Minotaur King, she’ll explore various towns, forests, and dungeons in search of the three key pieces needed to get into the labyrinth, slay the monster, and save the day. There are some nice surprises to be found in the world – like a giant turtle shell that’s been taken over by pirates, and a haunted mansion filled with living furniture – but the vast majority of dungeons and areas fit your standard adventure game template of desert, forest, swamp, etc. Still, everything looks gorgeous, and it’s hard not to love the whole HD Game Boy Colour aesthetic that ensures every screen really pops.

The game’s various enemies are also brilliant, with some really creative bosses and minibosses that take a pleasing mix of brain and brawn to fell. One early boss, a giant squid monster that chased me around a pool of water until I could drain it and go on the attack, was a particular highlight. Unfortunately, combat can feel relatively weightless thanks to a sword that rarely feels like it’s properly connected with its target, leading to some needlessly frustrating moments in which I was quickly overwhelmed by the bad guys.

Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. Credit: Castle Pixel.
Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. Credit: Castle Pixel.

Completionists will be thrilled to learn there’s plenty of engaging side content to track down in addition to the main quest (yes, there is a fishing minigame), although The Minotaur King really shoots itself in the foot by not allowing us to make notes on the map. Just come across a cave you can’t access right now? Better hope you can remember where on the horrendously sludgy pixelated map it was so you can come back later. In a game that takes so much from Zelda, it’s a real shame to see it fail to pick up this particular habit, and exploration suffers as a result.

What I did appreciate is just how fiendish the game’s four main dungeons really are. As someone who’s played more than their share of Zelda, I found myself genuinely scratching my head at some of the puzzles, before having that delicious ‘eureka’ moment that always comes with finally realising which item I need to be using. These are perfectly paced and cleverly designed challenges that easily stand out as the highlight of the whole adventure, not least because it’s where the game’s few new ideas come into play.

One of the game’s only truly original items (a remote control teleporter) made for some of the best and most challenging riddles, but it comes far too late in the adventure. More of that would’ve gone a long way, but instead we got the familiar avalanche of boomerangs, bows, and a yo-yo that’s a hookshot in all but name. It’s honestly a shame to see The Minotaur King shrink away from properly exploring its own ideas at the expense of recycling past glories, as it’s clearly at its best when it focuses on the new.

Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince launches on August 16 for Nintendo Switch and PC. This review was played on Nintendo Switch. 

The Verdict

If you love Zelda, you’ll find it hard to resist The Minotaur Prince. Yes, it’s obvious when certain items or ideas from elsewhere have been pinched, but does every game need to straddle the bleeding edge of innovation to be worthy of our time? Castle Pixel knows what the people want and is willing to give it to us: a fun, lighthearted top-down adventure game with smart puzzles, playful writing, and a colourful world to explore. Given that Nintendo isn’t doing it, we might as well let someone else have a crack.

Pros

  • Fun sense of humour
  • Some surprisingly difficult puzzles
  • Plenty of secrets to uncover
  • Bright, colourful world

Cons

  • Very few original ideas
  • Clunky combat
  • Awful map screen
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