Bright, blocky physic-based puzzlers/platformers seem to be going through a modern renaissance lately. In the last few years, we have had, to name a few: Grow Up/Home, Human Fall Flat, and Gang Beasts. Proving that style isn’t always better than substance, and that even just a small amount of substance can have a lasting impression, it does seem a bit of a backstep if you’ve splashed out on a nice 4K setup to play them on.
Mugsters, developed by Riku Tomminen and published by the iconic Team17 is an isometric puzzle/platformer and it’s bright, it’s blocky, it doesn’t give you much of a story, yet holds a try, try, try again attitude that makes it fun to play, hard to master.
Starting off in a mission hub, where you can track your progress, you start missions by selecting a level’s launchpad. Each level is a standalone island, and you are tasked with three objectives in each one. Your main objectives range from small initial affairs like destroying one item, to later challenges, like plugging in three separate units across the map. Secondary objectives are more often than not: “Save X amount of humans” and “Collect X amount of crystals”. It brings nothing new to fetch questing, but completing all three objectives unlocks a time trial for the level (y’know, if you really want to push yourself).
Levels start out relatively easy, the early ones having a few vehicles to try out, a handful of exploding barrels to play around with. By level four, you’re introduced to the red aliens, that charge at you like suicide mutants from Fallout (sans actual detonation). By level five, we’re shot at by fixed, rotating turrets to add more elements of danger in the mix. At time of writing, I’m on level eight. I doubt I’ll get past level eight, because I don’t have the thumb dexterity to avoid the giant, one-hit-abduction UFO patrolling the level. It’s a difficulty spike from nowhere, and I can’t imagine what else it’ll throw at me.
As far as core concepts go, that appears to be it for Mugsters. There’s couch co-op available (at time of writing, no online co-op is present) which helps you divide and conquer each level’s objectives. Your player character(s) are nondescript white humanoids, that you can customise with rudimental hats or capes. Trapped humans are blue (maybe the tanks they’re in are cold?) and as mentioned, aliens are red. You can get into fisticuffs with the aliens, which results in an Andy Capp-esque dust cloud and punch noises, which is a nice touch.
Level design is colour palette of children’s drawings, rendered in 3D: the sea is blue, rocks are red, trees are green, etc. Music, however, is a noticeable absence. Regardless of where you are, be it hub or level, you’ll get the same two mellow beats, on loop. It creates a weird juxtaposition, especially in later levels when there’s a lot going on at once, that there’s no bombastic or fast paced music to accompany it.
If you can get past the lack of music, and the simple design, Mugsters is a joyful little game. Taking the camera approach of older titles like Commandos and Cannon Fodder, and throwing in trial-and-error mechanics of its contemporaries such as Trials (no pun intended) and Hotline Miami, Mugsters holds its own in an ever-increasing puzzler genre.
However, we hold no responsibility for broken controllers. You can’t say you weren’t warned about the UFO’s…
Mugsters is available on PS4 (reviewed on base PS4), Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.