This morning saw the announcement and subsequent release of Minit Fun Racer, a spin-off to 2018’s peculiar time-bending adventure Minit. Like Minit, this small-scale racer revives a lot of the charm and whimsy found in the original. It’s worth little more than a cup of coffee and every cent of it is set to go to charity, which is always a tremendous thing.
Although the spin-off is developed by the entire original Minit team, comprised of Kitty Calis, Jan Willem Nijman, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann, we got the chance to sit down and speak with Kitty and J.W. fresh off last year’s release of Disc Room about this spin-off and everything that went into bringing it to life.
A scooter racer crossed with Minit is certainly something I’d describe as unexpected. How did the idea come about?
Kitty: Last year the Minit team got contacted by the New York Times to make an art piece about a “transportation hellscape”, which is where this idea originally sparked. Afterward, we kept thinking about what it’d be like as an actual game, we had a small window in between projects and thought why not make a game for charity?
Developed in only a month, Fun Racer has a real game jam feel about it. Is this how the process began or was it always going to be a Minit spin-off?
Kitty: This really is a passion project, and a few months in the making (Read: two months). I’ve wanted to make a charity game for quite some time, it was really just a matter of getting the band back together and the right situation. It’s been really fun to work on.
The team is amazing and it’s such good energy, everyone’s just happy to help and wants to do good. With Minit we were able to create a community, we felt like we were in a position to help, support, and give back.
I mean, even Devolver Digital was into the idea of publishing a game where they wouldn’t see a cent!
Was it always a racer? What other concepts were left on the table that also lent themselves to Minit’s minute-long limitations?
JW: Yeah, we always really dug the idea of doing a racer. Minit originally had some cars in the parking lot next to the hotel, but those were cut from the final game. Now we get to see what they’d be like in action! The development of Minit Fun Racer was very iterative, it started out with just a scooter weaving through traffic, and then finding the small things we could elaborate on.
Very quickly we realized there’s a joy in trying to hit as many trash cans in a row instead of avoiding them. So we added an upgrade called “trash turbo”, and it became an integral part of the gameplay right away.
What came first? The game itself or the idea to develop a small, novel experience to raise money for some great causes?
Kitty: I had the idea to make a game for charity for a while now. In these times, if you have the energy it’s very important to look after one another and help where you can. And I think this is a way for us to do that.
JW: On top of that, it was important for us that it was not just a game for charity, but also a nice game in itself. It’ll cost you the same as a cup of coffee, gives you a full little Minit/racing experience, and does good all at the same time!
I’m finding it hard to imagine how Minit’s core ideas meld together with what appears, on the surface, to essentially be an ‘endless runner’ of sorts. But I expect the team, as it does, adds a trick or two to make Fun Racer as unexpectedly rad an experience as Minit was?
Kitty: Minit’s core has always been a world filled with little secrets and charm, and Fun Racer is no different! Both games are black and white, based around time, and all about the details. Besides just racing to the end to see the sunset, players are also tasked with a list of goals to get their driver’s license. These goals result in all kinds of weird little stories, from pizza deliveries to buying dubious upgrades for your scooter to intense police chase action… Oh, and not to forget the midnight ghosts!
With the aim to raise money, I expect there’d be a want to hit as wide an audience as possible. If the demand is there, can you see yourselves bringing this to other platforms?
JW: This is a tricky question as porting is quite expensive, and it feels wrong to spend money on the development instead of just giving that to charity directly. Never say never, but I once saw an episode of Real Housewives where someone spent tens of thousands of dollars on a fundraiser, and then the fundraiser made like $200. Definitely don’t want that to happen!
One of the things I loved most about Minit was the chance encounters with the strange inhabitants of that world. Obviously zipping around on a scooter might make this tricky but, aside from the shopkeeper, does Fun Racer see a return to these charming interactions?
JW: So your most direct link here is the shopkeeper, who’s going through their own little rags-to-riches story as you buy every single overpriced item in their shop… Since you’re on a scooter for the rest of the game, there’s a bit less conversation (until you get to the ending(s)), but plenty of interaction: wake up sleeping cats with your horn, do some sick tricks, total a limo, see the glory of vultures shitting on billboards. It’s all there if you know where to look!
Can Fun Racer be “finished” so to speak? Is there an end state for players to strive toward?
JW: Yep, the game’s all about getting to the beach just in time for the sunset. As you get more and more items in the shop, this’ll keep getting easier until eventually, you get to see the beautiful ocean. That said, the goals to unlock your driver’s license add a whole extra layer of challenge on top of this! You’ll need to finish some really special laps to become a certified racer. Luckily we have nice difficulty options included in the game, so no worries if you just want to chill to the ending.
I’m loving this trend of Devolver published games being repurposed for either tongue-in-cheek parody or worthy causes like this — what’s a Devolver game you’d like to see get a spin-off treatment like Minit Fun Racer?
JW: Honestly, good causes are something people should always support when they can. What we really want to see is every Devolver character on a race track. Devolver Kart when?
Did you base Fun Racer off of your existing property in an effort to make the production as inexpensive as possible? I expect it was a more frugal production versus building something entirely brand new?
Kitty: I know it sounds kinda cheesy but the real reason is that we just love working in the world of Minit. The one-bit art style is super fun and quick to work in and makes it easier to experiment. Adding new elements to the game is a matter of minutes instead of days, so while the style might seem restrictive being only two colours, it makes the light shine on the creative side!
Minit Fun Racer is available right now for PC on Steam.