The most remarkable thing to report is just how extraordinary it looks. Considering Nintendo's first-party releases as the only measure of a target to beat, Climax has squeezed incredible detail out of the limited tech. Look, we'll just whisper this, but... we think it looks better than Zelda. Apparently they've used clever techy pre-instancing to get 128MB of a level into the 64MB Wii. It sounds like witchcraft, but the result is the ten hours or so of game, with up to 25 minions on screen at any time, across twelve domains, looks at least as good as anything else we've seen on Nintendo's cutesie-pie console. Whether the game itself will live up to the graphics is yet to be seen, but so far our hopes are high for a decent, hardcore Wii release.

Overlord: Minions (DS)

The DS is home to many ludicrous ports of main console games. Release your super-swishy, high-resolution, eye-bleeding third-person shooter on the 360, and then to cash in, um, a side-scrolling 2D platformer for the DS? Hoping people will recognise the Giant UltroGuns III name, the handheld piggybacks like a lame and lazy tramp on its bigger brothers. Again, this is a trend Climax is hoping to buck with its DS re-imagining of the series.

So rather than a homoeopathically diluted (and likely appropriately effective) version of the main game, instead the developer has plucked out one aspect of Overlord and developed a rather intriguing puzzle game.

Overlord's minions are divided into four coloured groups: green, blue, brown and red. Each has unique properties (greens create poisonous gas, blues can heal, and so on), used in the games to create strategic combat. So here, with the Overlord removed as a figure in the games, but rather representing you overlooking proceedings, is a collection of self-contained puzzles requiring smart application of up to four of the minions' abilities.

3
Oddly enough, not enough DS games use the top screen for maps. More, we say.

Owing a decent amount to The Lost Vikings, the puzzles tend to consist of using two or three of the minions to rescue the third or fourth. So if the green minion (Stench) can walk through a poison cloud, he can flick the switch that allows the fireball-throwing red minion (Blaze) to fling some fire, meaning brown minion (Giblet) can do a bit of fighting, to rescue blue minion (Zap). You get the idea. Called the Special Farces, their mission is to hunt the cult group the Kindred and prevent their resurrecting the dragon/human hybrid Dragon Kin.

It's viewed from a top-down perspective, the minions controlled by selecting them from a menu on the left of the screen, who then follow your stylus. Their abilities interact in smart ways. We were shown a boss fight in which Stench was farting out his noxious gases, then Blaze from platforms above was chucking down fireballs to set them alight, in turn burning the level's boss.

Designed to compliment the Wii's Dark Legend, while there's no Wii-meets-DS sort of magic going on, the two will have connecting story elements for those who play both, though we're assured there's no need to do so to understand either.

It's looking like a sensible way to bring an element of the series to the handheld platform, intelligently applying the stylus, and not wasting your time with idiotic blowing-into-the-mic nonsense. At a suggested six to seven hours, it doesn't seem like longevity will be one of its strengths. However, if the puzzles can capture the spirit of the puzzle games from the Lost Vikings era, it could be a lovely little treat.

Overall, both games seem to have far more spark in them than the usual Nintendo console "quick, make a port" knock-offs, with the Wii game's ambitions set especially high. Intended to compliment the Overlord series, playing as prequel to the original, hopefully both will stand up alongside Overlord II. It will mark an interesting breakthrough for developers Climax.

Overlord II, Overlord: Dark Legend and Overlord: Minions are all down for a 26th June release.

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