Minotaur China Shop might not be Flashbang’s most accessible game (that prize would have to go for the much more parent-friendly puzzler Splume), but it is its funniest. It’s not just the latest blog entries from the overly defensive Minotaur himself, though that helps, or that in-game, Flashbang have played everything perfectly, wryly straight, even when the pegasus in leopard print walks in and desires the ‘fancy plate.’ It’s also the more subtle joke that, at heart, China Shop is a subversion of and a gentle dig at the current casual game glut of Diner Dash clones.
But it’s also that, played “right,” Flashbang have perfectly pegged that ever-present anger-management underlying tension. You get that from the Minotaur’s stiff bipedal wobble (who you “drive around” more than “make walk”), as well as the precariousness of the shop packed tight with breakables, and the absurdity of the beast choosing a new profession so dainty at its core (that’s made the juxtaposition an apt cliche from the start). All together, there’s never any doubt that you’re only one misjudged turn away from havoc.
And, smartly, Flashbang have tuned that havoc into just as lucrative an option as playing straight: once the Minotaur has let his rage get the best of him, insurance kicks in and compensates you for every broken item, though you’ll obviously lose your customer base and have to deal with security firing arrows to keep your aggression in check.
Set in five separate days over which you can tune and upgrade both the happiest and angriest play styles as you wish, Minotaur lends itself perfectly to experimentation and replay — exactly what you’d want from a web game — and has instantly rocketed itself to the top handful of our 2008 indie game list.
Minotaur China Shop [Blurst]