It’s been interesting watching the evolution of the bullet hell survival game– the famed genre of indie mega-hit Vampire Survivors. Others may call it something else, but to me the unique twist of roguelike, bullet hell, and survival is just too addicting. These elements have been the catalyst leading to hundreds of indie games with their own visions of how these pieces fit together. That is where Boneraiser Minions comes in. With an admittedly juvenile sense of humor, a few unique twists on the formula, and hours of content, Boneraiser Minions stands 6 feet above other similar games and is perfect for fans of the genre.
Boneraiser Minions is available on Steam for $4.99.
Story: Take Revenge on King Gigald
Boneraiser Minions isn’t a story driven game, and the extent of it is a splash screen when the game is launched. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as there are just a few hints sparsely sprinkled through the levels. Essentially, you are a necromancer and you are being hunted by the dastardly King Gigald and his servants. If you want to defeat him, you will need to “boneraise” a large and powerful undead army.
One look at the achievements list and you’ll get a sense of the humor that permeates through the entire experience. In fact, the first achievement you’ll likely get is called “My First Boner,” a prelude to the good poundings and deadly good times you’ll be giving to the peasantry. All of the characters and menus are written in an “old timey” vernacular that’s a little charming, but also a bit heavy handed because it’s obviously a joke. There’s an option to forgo the antiquated vernacular and switch to a modern dialect if desired.
Gameplay: A Good Pounding
The humor permeates through the available minions as well. Each time you level up (or boneraise as it is called in-game) you can pick a new minion or upgrade an existing one. One thing Boneraiser Minions does extremely well is introduce a huge amount of unique and interesting minions. There are damage focused minions like the archer or the grave guard, but there are also utility focused minions. These minions may increase the attack speed of your army or make enemies take more damage.
The names for these creatures take some getting used to. For better or worse, the humor is juvenile at times. Any guesses on what the first minion you come across is called? Yep, it’s called a Boner. Other notable minions are the “Big Bro Potoussy,” a giant, exploding sentient pot, and a “Big Bro Boobroski,” a large ghost.
“Boneraise” Your Undead Army
Enemies come in waves, each with several distinct types of enemies. Many of the enemies, at least in the first couple of waves, have a one-note behavior and will bee-line right for you. At the beginning, it can be difficult to get started because the enemies come in droves, and you’ll be discovering how to best use each of your minions and abilities. Your necromancer can dash to avoid baddies, which is a lifesaver in certain situations. You’ll find a number of unique relics that provide bonuses to your army as well. Each time you make it just a few minutes further, you’ll learn the game knowledge and find the currencies needed to progress and unlock more features.
When you boneraise, you have the opportunity to upgrade an existing minion. One neat thing about the minions in Boneraiser Minions is that they can follow multiple upgrade paths. For example, the archer minions can transform into a giant archer, a demon archer, or a gelantinous Meldus sniper. These are ranged attackers, but all function differently. However, transforming your minions into these unique creatures requires sacrificing multiple minions. While in my experience it’s usually a good trade off, in some instances it can leave you defenseless if the new unit has a lower attack speed or loses the ability to cast debuffs. Not to mention, these unique units are limited and you can only have a certain amount in your army.
Lots of Neat Classes to Play
There are 16 classes to pick from, and each one has unique attributes. For example, the Gangly Grafted class gets bonuses towards raising giant minions. The Liche class, however, focuses on quantity over quality with many of its perks revolving around the size of your undead army. Each class understandably has a preferred strategy, but it’s by no means necessary to complete a run. There are even classes with wholly unique units. The Puppet Master forgoes the undead and instead raises wax minions. These wax units have brand new upgrade paths with different stats and capabilities so you’ll need to adjust your strategy accordingly if you want to win.
These new classes are unlocked as you progress through the game. By the time I finished my first run, I had nearly all of the classes unlocked, and this is from just casually playing the game. My favorite class is probably the Voodoo Shaman. The shaman raises extra “Zombie Bros” so by the time you’re halfway through a run, there’s a horde of silly looking zombies chasing your enemies down. Is it unbalanced? Perhaps, but it sure is fun!
In between runs, your decaying body wanders the crypt hub, a staging area. Here you can purchase items and upgrade your characters for your next run. Many of the character upgrades are unique to your class, but there is plenty to see in the crypt. There are other upgrades that are more “session-driven” – these will add in more varied enemies or bonuses. That said, it doesn’t take terribly long to unlock every single power-up and upgrade. They are necessary for progression, and enabling every one will unlock new game modes.
Alternate Game Modes and Customization
As if the quest to destroy King Gigald wasn’t enough, Boneraiser Minions was recently updated with a brand new game mode to kill Queen Gigald. The structure of this new game mode is quite different. Rather than an uninterrupted stage, you’ll go through through a handful of levels with the ability to save your progress. Aside from this, there is another mode called Clashful Cards, a card based minigame.
My favorite unlockable is a class: the Imp Contraptioneer. After you unlock the Contraptioneer class, you can lay down traps in the map of your next run. There’s plenty of options to pick between and they all have different effects. For example, there’s one that will simply increase your max health. There’s another that will increase your unique minion cap, and another will even make a certain enemy type appear more often.
Audio & Graphics: Visually Coherent, Audibly Annoying
Boneraiser Minions uses a simple pixel art theme, but it is cohesive in every sense of the word. I quite like the style and direction they are going for. Everything has a distinct look with dark, moody colors. It uses a limited color palette to really adhere to the retro aesthetic, but that doesn’t prevent it from looking rather slick.
One aspect that deserves praise is the visual accessibility. Oftentimes in Vampire Survivors or bullet-hell survival games, it’s hard to see where your character is because of the projectiles and enemies. Boneraiser Minions has a menu dedicated to improving the clarity of what’s on screen. There are options to outline your character, enemies, projectiles, and even to add a layer of transparency to your minions. As you can imagine, having dozens of your minions on screen can be confusing when there are potentially hundreds of enemies. These quality of life options make the game more enjoyable for me because I’m less likely to lose my character on the screen.
The music, however, is hit or miss. For lack of a better word, it has an 8-bit retro sound to it, but the music loops too quickly. This may not be a problem for some, but for me it was grating to hear the same music repeating over. Combined with the shrill sound effects, I found myself lowering the volume more often than not.
Does Boneraiser Minions run on the Steam Deck?
Boneraiser Minions is verified on the Steam Deck, and I’ve experienced zero problems while playing it. Better yet, it is the perfect match for the Steam Deck as you can easily pause your game and pick it up later. I’ve spent most of my current playtime, about 21 hours, on the Steam Deck. It honestly has been hard to put down, and I’m debating on gathering all 176 achievements.