Ride review: Universal Orlando's Villain-Con Minion Blast

August 10, 2023, 8:02 PM · What do you call a dark ride without ride vehicles? Villain-Con Minion Blast.

Universal Studios Florida's new interactive attraction places visitors on the show floor of the latest Villain-Con, now back in Orlando after that 1968 gathering depicted in the first Minions movie. But instead of sitting riders in buggies, cars, mini Gru-mobiles or any other expensive conveyance that theme parks typically employ to carry their guests past the waiting targets, Universal here opted to make us stand on a moving walkway.

Frankly, while blasting away, I didn't notice that I was standing rather than sitting for this adventure. If anything, standing around fits with the trade-show setting for this contest, where we supposedly are aiming (pun intended) to become the next member of the Vicious 6 - the gang of super-villains that Gru longed to join.

Villain-Con's pre-show area creates that show floor in amazing detail, immersing visitors in displays from companies looking to sell all sorts of contraptions to super-villains and would-be super-villains, including us. But before you get into the preshow area, use your time in the outdoor queue to set up the Universal Orlando app, which synchs with the E-Liminator X guns that you will be using on the Minion Blast course.

And while you are in the queue, and throughout the Minion Land in fact, you can score points in the app by scanning V6 icons on walls on the show floor and other Minion Land locations. Victor Lugo, Director of Immersive Experiences for Universal Creative, explains how to use the app on Villain-Con Minion Blast in our preshow walk-through video.

As someone who's been using the Universal Studios Hollywood app to track score and complete tasks in Super Nintendo World, this was nothing new to me. But if you've not been to Hollywood or Japan since Nintendo opened, this is going to be something new to you. (At least, as I said when Nintendo opened in California, Universal built this gameplay into its existing park apps instead of requiring you to download and use another app *cough* like Play Disney Parks *cough*.)

That said, the complexity of options available in the app reveals what I thought to be the weakness of Villain-Con Minion Blast's gameplay for first-time visitors - it's overwhelming. The E-Liminator X is one of the bulkiest shooters that I have used on an interactive attraction. It's a two-hander for sure, if for no other reason than this gun has two triggers. Fortunately, it's relatively light in weight, so my hands never cramped nor felt tired while playing.

My eyes, however? Yi, yi, yi, my eyes. Like Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Villain-Con Minion Blasts revels in visual overload. Good luck picking out which of the countless targets on screen you ought to be aiming for here. Just spray fire wherever and learn from there.

Villain-Con Minion Blast plays on multiple screens, including some visual shout-outs to sights around the Universal Orlando Resort. I especially appreciated the call-back to the Orca, the boat used hunt the shark in the original "Jaws" (RIP). My score improved on my second try, as I found making visual sense of the gameplay easier with another go. Universal has designed Villain-Con Minion Blast for the long-haul, creating an experience that rewards loyal and frequent players, even at the risk of overwhelming some people at first.

Would I have appreciated the opportunity to sit down while playing this game? Sure. But how may first-person shooter games play with characters who are sitting down? A super-villain needs to think, scheme and shoot on their feet, so consider this appropriate training for your evil future career.

And if you don't make it into the Vicious 6... hey, at least the inside is well air-conditioned. And blasting away is always fun. So strap up and enjoy.

For a look at everything else in Universal's newly designated Minion Land, please read my previous post, Let's tour Universal Studios Florida's new Minion Land.

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Replies (10)

August 11, 2023 at 9:00 AM

What safeguards are in place to keep players stationary instead of moving backwards in the conveyor in attempts to improve their score (I can see AP holders and other frequent visitors trying this).

Any idea of the hourly capacity. Seems like it could potentially be a very high capacity ride.

August 11, 2023 at 9:27 AM

This looks incredibly complicated from a gameplay perspective, not even considering the app integration. I like that designers have created a shooting gallery attraction that is nearly infinitely re-playable, but will the average guest really care about doing this attraction again if they're so overwhelmed and confused by their first experience? I feel like they should be running this attraction with different levels of complexity throughout the day - beginner/easy in the morning, intermediate/medium in the middle of the day, and expert/hard in the evening. This attraction has enough sensory overload on it without layering in the complicated gameplay and app integration. Universal should be trying to make this attraction accessible to everyone (including tech-challenged guests), and then once guests have a feel for it, they can crank up the difficulty and complexity. They could even do special events throughout the year with passholders who are well-seasoned on the attraction and can compete against each other tournament-style.

I feel that there's an excellent concept for an attraction here, but it's lost in layers upon layers of complexity that will turn off too many guests. You only get 1 chance to make a first impression, and with lots of other attractions in the park, Universal has to get this to connect with the largest possible audience to ensure repeat visits, because ultimately that's why you layer all this detail and complexity into an attraction. If a guest is frustrated on their first run through, they're unlikely to do it again, which means all the details, Easter Eggs, and complexity are for naught.

August 11, 2023 at 9:59 AM

TwoBits, with no crowd for the press event yesterday, I must admit that I found myself drifting a bit off my assigned space on the belt. (Those are designated by colored dots.) So I guess it's just social convention keeping you from bumping into your neighbors?

August 11, 2023 at 11:15 AM

@twobits ... from my experience, it's all pretty civilized. It's difficult to stay exactly on your allocated blue or red dot, because the shoot-em-up screens appear all around you, so there's always a little bit of drift but nothing that could be called space infringement ... yet !!

August 11, 2023 at 4:32 PM

I can see where this is going to give me a reason to visit USF a bit more. 25mins today, so I created my profile and blasted away. A lot lower score than my previous attempts, but I focused more on completing missions and getting trophies.

For sure, a huge amount of stuff to do, and the only people who are really going to benefit from all the app related goodies, are the passholders.

I'm a gamer anyway, so collecting trophies and upgrading my gear is second nature, but this will be a long haul. As long as wait times don't go over 30mins I'll drop into the studios for another blast. I also have my express pass after 4, so that'll help.

I managed to find 11 collectibles today, but still gotta work out how they all fit into the game.

I like it, I must admit. But again, being big into gaming (PS5) it's something that will see me going more often.

August 11, 2023 at 4:48 PM

This attraction reflects a lot of Universal’s learning with Super Nintendo World. It’s a game for gamers rather than a dark ride version of an arcade shooting gallery. But understanding that difference here is going require flipping a mental switch for a lot of park visitors, I suspect.

August 11, 2023 at 5:04 PM

Game for gamers .... exactly right Robert. Russell suggested it was complex, but it isn't really.

I'm sure for the vast majority of players, they won't even know, or care, about linking it to the app. It's just another fun shoot-em-up for them. A one/two 'ride' before they move on.

For some of us though, it'll be a challenge to get all the trophies and collectables, but unless you play it all day every day, it's going to take a while.

And maybe, that's exactly what Universal wanted?? A way to get people to visit more.
Despite, in reality, that hard-core group is going to be very small.

August 12, 2023 at 6:32 AM

All in all, the attraction is actually pretty well done. Kids do love it. As a middle-aged adult, I could take it or leave it. I'll have fun going through it with my son but can't imagine wanting to do it without him what with all the other options in the park. The app integration is all fine and well - but connecting your phone to the blaster is a clunky process. You must hold your phone in an exact place on the blaster - and even then, it is finicky. They've been asking you to step out of line after receiving your shooter if you want to scan in the app. Def not the touch and go process that it should be.

August 12, 2023 at 7:42 AM

Why ? I guess this could soak up potentially pass holders but there are so many versions of this shooter game attraction and screen ride concept. Can the R&D teams come up with other ride ideas ?

August 15, 2023 at 2:24 AM

The Twitter people are excoriating the attraction/game.

"One hour wait to play a Wii Zapper game"

"First time I’ve actually seen footage of the ride. My god it’s worse than I imagined from what I read."

"Who in universal studios was like “yeah lets make them stand more but with lasers!”"

"We lost shrek 4d for a foot cramp simulator"

"The internet would be losing it's mind if this were at Disney...."

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