Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns is one of those games which doesn’t leave much of an impression on first glance, and even if you decide to take the first set of levels for a spin it still won’t blow your mind right away. But then you suddenly realise that you’re promising yourself to stop after just “one more level”.
Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns is an old school puzzle action game which takes after games like Pac-Man and its many clones which graced the Atari and other consoles during the ‘80s. The premise is simple, you take control of a lawnmower to mow off every block of grass much like how Pac-Man would go after every last pellet. This takes place all while navigating maze-style levels (again, akin to Pac-Man), with a premise involving lawn mutants and other hazards to turn the lawnmowing from weekend chore to a battle to save the world.
The graphics and visual presentation of Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns takes after the style of Minecraft with pixelated blocks. The visuals are simple and clean enough to make the gameplay effective and apparent, because detailed graphics aren’t usually helpful when a puzzle action game requires precise responsiveness. While the game may start out with jarring silence when you log into it for the first time, Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns really shines in its soundtrack. The music is just so varied and tends to steer more towards techno pop, but regardless of the genre or musical instruments featured, each track is fun, uplifting and guaranteed to make your feet tap to the joyful rhythm.
The gameplay basically involves taking control of your lawnmower (or grass-feeding animal) with the thumbstick and once your mower starts there’s no stopping it unless you hit a wall or object (again, just like Pac-Man). The simple goal of each level is to cut through all the patches of grass. This sounds trivial enough, but the process of cutting grass is interrupted with numerous obstacles and challenges. Some of these are things any lawnmowing veteran can relate to, whether it’s a pile of rocks or puddles of deep water, but then the game throws in crazier challenges from the titular lawn mutants (some behave a bit like the ghosts in Pac-Man) to things like robots and drones. The maze design – later levels feature elaborate puzzles to solve – and the variety of obstacles get progressively more interesting and challenging, and the progression feels organic enough to keep players wanting to play just one more level. That’s ultimately what Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns does well, to capture the instant gameplay hook and enduring appeal of arcade hits from three decades ago.
The primary gameplay draw is to chase a high score and this is achieved by completing levels as quickly as possible whilst collecting gears and destroying enemies (the various powerups upgrade the lawnmower in pretty inventive ways). The main handicap is the limited battery life (fuel?) which depletes as you move around, and so each level becomes a race against the clock and battery life.
The gameplay can get quite challenging, and the precise twitchy controls add to the challenge but it’s never a case where the controls can be blamed for the player’s failure; instead it is almost always the responsiveness of the player that is the cause. Classic arcade games always had simple gameplay mechanics situated in an increasingly complex game design, and Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns captures those time-honoured conventions very well. That being said, the amount of times Pac-Man has to be referenced when describing Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns makes it feel like a spin-off of the design. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are several modern Pac-Man games that one could enjoy which really push the puzzle action design to new heights.
Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns is a fun and inviting arcade puzzle game with an appealing gameplay design. The graphics are pragmatically simple to keep the gameplay responsiveness engaging, and the soundtrack is filled with fun and uplifting tracks which explore a variety of genres with very joyful and catchy rhythms. Grass Cutter – Mutated Lawns is a simple and effective puzzle action game designed to help you burn a few hours.