Developer: Reinkout Games
Publisher: Team 17
Rating: T for Teen
Some games catch your eye when looking through the endless barrage of new indie releases and Mugsters from Reinkout Games and Team 17 stood out. With a unique art style and gameplay that looked silly but fun, my interest was piqued.
Violence: Cartoony violence is the name of the game in Mugsters. Enemies can be blown up, run over with vehicles or punched. If they get a hold of you, the mission ends in failure. In each task, there are humans that can be saved from test tubes, but no visible harm is seen on any character.
The story in Mugsters is practically non-existent. Aliens have taken over the planet and enslaved humanity. You are charged with traveling from island to island to save your fellow humans. There are no cutscenes or any meaningful dialogue; it’s about as paper-thin as a story can be told. This to me was a distinctly lacking element to Mugsters and the game took more of a Minecraft-like approach to storytelling in that you create your own story as you go through the levels.
When starting out, Mugsters drops you on a hub island with little to no instructions. You are left to running around trying to get acquainted with your environment, learning that you can punch, run, and jump. If you go into a little cabin, you can change your outfit. My main gripe with the presentation is that your character is painfully small to see and the camera is too far away. You are able to rotate the camera with the right stick, but otherwise, it’s a fixed distance camera. It seems to be an aesthetic choice by the developer to have the camera far away. Eventually, I grew accustomed to it, but I did find it somewhat confusing at the beginning.
Sooner or later, you will find the island portals and the main game begins. Each island has a series of challenges to complete. The islands have a destructive feel to them—some of your goals include destroying a relay station or a prison to free your fellow humans. You can enter any vehicle on a map with the press of a button. Controls feel solid and the character is responsive with the early missions being simple to a fault. At any point you can leave the island by simply entering a plane and launching off the screen. However, this will not fully complete the level and rescuing humans or destroying stations are some of the goals you should complete before leaving.
Levels can be completed in any way you choose and this is where much of the fun is intended. There are times when enemies will charge at you, but they can be destroyed with weaponized vehicles or by melee attacks. You have a regenerative life bar and can pick up and throw barrels that explode. This is important as some things must be destroyed. If you do not have a vehicle, you can use an explosive barrel to complete tasks. As previously stated, there are vehicles—over thirty in total—and you’ll need these to break down the physics-based walls and doors throughout the islands. If too much damage is sustained on a vehicle, you had better run before it blows up.
Co-op multiplayer is where Mugsters is truly at its best. You can play through the whole experience with a friend—the chaotic nature of the gameplay lending itself perfectly to multiplayer. Being able to share in some hilarious experiences when things go awry was definitely a highlight of the title.
Initially, Mugsters seems like it’s too easy, but it ramps up rather quickly in difficulty. If you focus on getting all the collectibles before moving on, it is much more rewarding. As I progressed, I found Mugsters to be much more enjoyable; there’s a real element of strategy and planning that goes into each level. It’s often better to think ahead and wait to save the hostages until the end since they follow you and can die if you end up fighting enemies. It is this randomness—with added enemy types like UFO’s and laser beams—that make the whole experience fun. It is a shame that you have to get through some lackluster content to get to that point.
The graphics are unique and give Mugsters some originality. I appreciated the little flourishes of detail, such as water rippling when you fly over it and the smoke from your exhaust as you screech away in a broken little car. It has a certain cartoon-like visual style, and for a game about freedom and destruction, this works nicely. I would speak of a soundtrack, but Mugsters has no music. The sound effects are done very well and add to the overall experience.
Mugsters is a really strange game to review as its name does not do it justice. The later stages become increasingly more fun with clever destruction puzzles to solve and are even better when playing with a friend. The experience grew on me the more I played and it made me want to play just one more level again and again. If you can look past some of the faults, Mugsters ends up being an underrated indie title that should appeal to anyone looking for something explosively fresh.
Code generously provided by Team 17.
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