Wednesday, December 17, 2008

minotaur china shop

An amusing diversion for the midst of winter. Visit the lovely Minotaur China Shop, a free web-browser game wherein you play a minotaur alternately serving customers and destroying wares in a shop of expensive china. (You will likely need to install a "Unity Web Player" before being able to play, but rest assured this is not malicious spyware). The makers of, Flashbang Studios, have also produced such wonderfully absurd freebies as Off-Road Velociraptor Safari and Jetpack Brontosaurus. They are all worth at least a couple hours of your time.

You remember when video games first started incorporating destructible environments? I mean, back in the days of Doom or (if you're really old) Castle Wolfenstein, you'd be lucky to interact with a frickin' door. Everything was solid and you ran amidst concrete lanes to the next scary episode. But now, you can knock over the oil drum, wait until the ground is slick with black gold, taunt your zombie-enemies into running towards you, and then set the whole room on fire by flicking your cigarette. And that's pretty damn cool, I agree. Game environments are designed to be destructible. But what if there was a game goading you with the constant temptation of destruction, but to succeed you needed to be very very careful not to break anything? Well, you'd be a minotaur in a china shop.

Your goal is to make money. You can do it in one of 2 ways: 1) serve customers, selling various products or 2) go nuts, break everything in the place and hope the insurance pay-off is more than the damage costs. Clever. The more items you break (by accident or on purpose), the more enraged you become. The screen will get darker, the music more tense, until finally there will be only red, your entire world shrinking to the one priceless, mocking urn before you.

Note the arrows. Once you start breaking stuff out of control, security will come and take you down. At this point, your goal is to trash the place as much as possible before you get knocked out.

If this was the extent of the game, you'd be amused for a few minutes at most. But the cleverness of MCS is that it's a game of economic decisions. You have 5 days to make the most money you can. At the beginning of each day, you're given the opportunity to buy upgrades, like new battle moves, or strength (to shake off those pesky arrows), or higher rage insurance (so that the payoff from breaking shit is higher).

This allows for some interesting strategic play. Do you invest in Advertising, Inventory, and Speed so that you can serve more customers faster? Or do you invest in Strength, Rage Insurance, and Inventory to maximize profits via insurance payoffs? Often, the best strategy is a subtle mix between the two, although some players have noted that you can really score it big if you play a pure "customer" strategy. This takes enormous patience and diligence. And of course, that's the fun of it. You'd much rather run around breaking everything in sight.

Try it and work out your frustrations. Think of it as gaming therapy.


  1. What exactly are you offering me in this post? You have zero comments because you've just repeated the thousands of other posts covering the game. Why not do a bit of work, and give your readers a bit of service: play the game and figure out some strategies, then publish that.

  2. Sweet! My first flaming troll! I must be making the Big Time.