At first glance, “Mines of Minos” looks to be the typical Pac-Man clone that was being cranked out right before the video game crash of 1983. But if you dig a little deeper, and read the instructions, you will find a clever adventure game that is well thought out, innovative and challenging. This game is the textbook example of why when you play an older Atari 2600 game, especially a ROM version, you should dig up the manual so you understand it completely.
In “Mines of Minos” you play a robot in a mine who needs to fend off an invasion by an ever increasing horde of space aliens. The aliens just sort of appear in the maze and you need to either kill them or avoid them. Your weapon is a bomb/mine that you leave behind in hopes that the aliens will walk over it and be destroyed. That changes the nature of the standard offense oriented Atari games. You need to plan ahead for each attack you want to perform. Also make sure you wait for the alien to be completely vaporized, even while dying they are a threat.
Now my one issue with the game is that the maze is tight, which means sometimes when switching direction into a perpendicular offshoot of the maze, you need to make your robot body fit perfectly. This can get frustrating and requires a steep learning curve that will frustrate players of all levels.
So what’s the point of the game? That’s where the manual comes in handy. You move through the maze looking for robot pieces, which are little dots, when you pick up those dots you need to move them to the edge of the screen and they will show up as part of an extra robot in your scoring area. See you start out with just one life and then need to actually build your new lives, or replacement robot bodies. This is a wonderful take on the idea of extra lives in a game.
You can crawl around the maze for a little bit, but you need to hurry because eventually it fills up with water and you will need to move to the next level. Do that by going to the warp corridors on the side of the screen (just like the ones in Pac-Man) and holding down the controller button while moving through them.
You are now on the next level and need to repeat the above process. An important little bit of info. You want to kill enough bad guys so that your power rating goes up. If you power rating is lower then the level you are currently on, the aliens are more difficult to destroy. I know what you are thinking now. They made this game for the Atari 2600?? I know and it gets better.
So you keep moving from level to level until you come to the final level where there are no moving aliens. Instead you have 3 stationary aliens to kill. So you drop a bomb and nothing. These guys don’t move. So how do you kill them? Get this, you need to sacrifice one of your lives on each of them. Wow! They take the idea of lives and fully integrate it into the game like I have never seen before. So the whole time you are playing the game, you need to be keeping track of how many extra robots you build, because if you do not have 3+ you will not be able to win the game.
If you played well and have the proper number of guys, you will get to see some robot happiness as your reward screen. The perfect end to an amazing game.
“Mines of Minos” is a forgotten classic made by a company I had never even heard of, CommaVid. The gameplay is sharp and engaging. The storyline while vague at times, is deep for a standalone Atari 2600 game. The only flaw I found was the control system, which can be frustrating and prevent full enjoyment of the game at every level. I give “Mines of Minos” 4 out of 5 stars.