This article contains spoilers for Minute of Islands.
Minute of Islands is a dark game. Don't be fooled by the girl in the cute yellow raincoat, this post-apocalyptic adventure is a grim story of isolation, broken families, learning to let go, and lots (and I mean lots) of gross, squishy gore. The game's main story follows Mo, a young girl on a mission to stop her world from being slowly suffocated by alien spores. There are a lot of different narrative threads at work, but this main conflict—human survival against the fungus threatening their existence—is one that really spoke to me.
Minute of Islands is set on a small archipelago many humans once inhabited. Since the invasion of the poisonous fungus, people left in droves until only a small family remained—Mo being part of the group who stayed. Humans have tried to adapt, wearing shoddy hazard suits and having air purifying technology, but the alien spores are relentless. Even if one purifier breaks, the spores move in instantly, choking the islands and their inhabitants.
It's these purifiers that set Mo on her journey. She's a young apprentice who's been tasked with overseeing giant, grotesque giants who power the machines that filter the island's air. These human-like creatures live deep underground and are bound by duty to make sure humans are able to breathe freely on the surface. The purifiers have stopped working, and with the islands and its titans now gasping for air, Mo must fix them.
As you play through Minute of Islands, it starts to become clear how much the alien fungus has ravaged the landscape. The strange plants have taken over everything. Mo's childhood home, her uncle's abandoned theme park, and her sister's farm have all been consumed. You can feel the fear and obligation Mo has to stop the spores from spreading, and this is where the game really drives home the isolation she feels being 'the chosen one' in a world on the brink of an ecological crisis.
There are stories of humans who eventually left the islands, but we've no idea where they are now or if they are even alive. Mo's unwavering commitment to her cause has created a rift between her and her family. Their only reason for staying—even to the detriment of their health—is to not abandon Mo, which places a strain on their relationships with her.
The spores emit a sickly gas that cloaks the archipelago, and what grows in the aftermath is nothing short of beautiful. Vibrant flora and fauna engulf everywhere the alien fog touches, thriving in the newly created atmosphere. They burst from the smallest cracks, spread like vines up the tallest structures, and cover every inch of available space, coating humankind's metal and wooden fixtures with bursts of colour.
It's often the case in global crisis stories that humans are 'losing' the world to a powerful force. But in Minute of Islands, it feels different. Is Mo's world on the brink of collapse, or rejuvenation? It's not explored explicitly, but whether the spores are a natural progression of the world itself or an alien invader, it's now part of the ecosystem. If that means it's the end times for humans, that's the way it is. The further you play through the story, Mo's quest to keep the islands safe begins to feel more and more futile. This new force is something that cannot be stopped. It looks like nature is reclaiming its world, even to the detriment of humans. Everything will be wiped out, and a vibrant new world will take its place.
It's a melancholy story, but not completely. There are many stories about humanity's battle with nature, but Minute of Islands is one where the main protagonist gives up her journey for the good of her well-being—even at the cost of her physical health. After so long being the sole person who can stop the spores, she learns to let go, no longer sacrificing the relationships with her family and accepting the inevitable fate of the islands. She frees herself from the pressure and trauma of, literally, saving the world.
As the humans decide to leave the islands and sail off into the sunset, I can't help thinking: will they survive or perish at the hands of this new world? There's no way to tell, but it's a risk Mo has accepted for the sake of escaping a destiny she had no hand in choosing. Minute of Islands is a game about letting go and releasing yourself from a responsibility holding you down and it's a powerful message. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break, even when it feels like the world will end.