In the world of Mugsters the aliens have invaded and it’s your job to save the last of humanity, all by working through multiple levels. The objective is simple; save the humans in any way you can – but does Mugsters please, or should it have been beamed up along with the rest of the human race?
Coming from Reinkout Games and developed under Team17’s Incubation programme, Mugsters is a top down adventure puzzler set over 25 sandbox levels. From the off Mugsters gives you nothing – no tutorials or even helpful videos. But this sets the tone for the game ahead, allowing you to work out everything on your own.
Initially you will find yourself on the home island, a hub world where you can select levels, send saved humans to safety, try out new vehicles and explore. The island does a good job of allowing you to learn the mechanics of the game. It includes a small time trial track that lets you get to grips with the vehicle handling and a few secrets that can be discovered using some well timed platforming. This all works well to learn the basics and is entirely optional; you could of course just jump straight to the first level and learn there, but as a replacement for traditional tutorials it’s a great addition.
Once in to the game proper you find yourself on a seemingly deserted island. From this first level it’s clear the game looks great, utilising a really simple art style, bright punchy colours and simple blocky shapes to bring the sandbox to life. It fits the tone of the game incredibly well, probably more so than any other title in recent memory, and it does a great job of making objects in the environment easily identifiable.
As you move around you begin to get a good feel for what is going on, and find that the first couple of levels are fairly simple with just a couple of obstacles to overcome. As previously mentioned the main aim here is to save the last of humanity and you’ll find increasing numbers of humans trapped in tubes throughout each island. You’ll need to destroy the tubes to free the humans, however, once free the human will follow you through the level – so you must make sure to keep them safe until the end. There are also secondary objectives, one is always centred around collectible crystals that scatter the levels, and are a great distraction and take some real ingenuity to reach. The other objective on each island can vary; sometimes you need to destroy something or use a laser to turn a machine on. Each is clever in its own way and requires you to think before proceeding.
Physics play a huge role in Mugsters and you find yourself launching cars, barrels and all manner of objects around the islands in pursuit of objectives, finding ways to blast through walls or to reach that interesting looking bulldozer you want to use. It uses its mechanics well and there’s enough mystery in the game and level structure to see you right through to the end, easily keeping you hooked on how to reach the conclusion. What is interesting here is that you can always approach the same level in a new way, be it on foot or in the huge variety of vehicles each island seems to contain – there are countless tricks to reach the goal. I did find that dying can sometimes be frustrating though, as you have to start each level from the beginning again. A checkpoint system would have been helpful here.
Enemies come in a few forms; standard aliens are bright red and will give chase when they spot you, but these are easily dispatched with a few well timed punches. However the fun comes in using the environment to trap them or defeat them using vehicles in all manner of ways.
Drones appear next and, like the standard aliens, give chase when they get sight of you. These are faster though and will spin around until they get an opportunity to grab you and take you away. They also need to be defeated in more ingenious ways, using an explosive barrel for instance or drawing them towards a trap usually works.
Then there are the big guys, the UFOs. These will beam you up if they get near you, floating across the levels with all the grace of a drunk hippo. These guys take some work to counter and my most used method is to lure them into the sea where they sink to the bottom, never to bother you again.
Mugsters also makes absolutely excellent use of sound. With little music it comes down to the sounds of the environments around you to do the work, but it works amazingly, with vehicles coming with great sound effects and enemies sounding suitably horrible. There’s an excellent use of bass throughout and explosions make a wonderful reverberating noise when they happen. As with the art style it just fits the game so perfectly and is a real testament to Reinkout Games.
If you manage to complete all objectives on an island, you will find access to the time trial for that stage. These are great fun as you feel the pressure whilst learning new and faster ways to finish each island. This is primarily the only way to add replayability to Mugsters though and whilst it does a good job, it won’t keep you going forever. This is probably the biggest issue with Mugsters in fact – once you’ve had your fill you often won’t feel like you need to come back to it. Which is a shame as the game is wonderful.
All of this can be played out via local co-op, offering slight variations of the levels for two players. It is honestly one of the most hilarious games I have played with a friend in a long time and guarantees hours of laughter as you bounce around levels, hindering each other more than helping.
In all Mugsters is a wonderful little game and unlike just about anything you have played before. It is worth the time and money, and despite lacking a little in replayability, it makes up for it in charm and the clever avenues it delivers for you to compete objectives.