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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Team17
Developer: Reinkout Games
Release Date: July 17, 2018

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Mugsters'

by Joseph Doyle on Dec. 18, 2018 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

Mugsters is a physics-based, supercharged, action-packed puzzler with sandbox levels where you must outrun, out-maneuver and outsmart your enemies by experimenting with different vehicles, environmental traps and explosives.

Buy Mugsters

Time has taken puzzle games in such a fascinating direction. In the past 40 years, we've seen the genre transform from puzzles at their simplest (manipulating shapes or patterns in Bejeweled and Tetris) to being implemented into other genres (The Legend of Zelda, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider) and being combined with other genres to create compelling fusions that appeal to a wider audience (Human: Fall Flat, Portal, Thomas Was Alone). The developers at Reinkout took this cue and created Mugsters, a hybrid between puzzle and platform games, with sandbox environments and strokes of minimalism throughout to create a title that cultivates curiosity with every level.

As you begin Mugsters, you're plopped into the middle of an island that serves as a preview of the stages to come, and it also acts as a home base as you travel through the other island levels. With very little instruction, you quickly recognize that your main goal is to get off the island and be warped from island to island, with varying dangers and impediments with each area. The game boasts an incredibly zoomed-out perspective, and you control a small human-like creature that lacks any discerning features. By interacting with the cars, exploding barrels, and other objects in the environment, you learn how to reach the old-school propeller airplane and escape the island — and you may even save a few friends or turn on a few generators along the way. The title has stripped down many of its core elements to match the simplicity of the objective: escape.

Mugsters is incredibly satisfying to play because it gives the player options on how to best navigate through the level. For example, vehicles are strewn about the levels, so the player can smash through most, if not all, obstacles in a stage. Perhaps you'd like to blow up the walls with barrels or jump over the walls. This game allows players to flourish by taking simple elements and allowing them all to interact. Reinkout recognizes people's general fascination with poking something with a stick and hoping it will do something. A lot of the time, something breaks, explodes, or dies, allowing you to progress toward the end of this level, which feels highly rewarding. Mugsters allows our elementary school science selves to try stuff and see what happens. The player is not only granted the opportunity to explore but also gets the reward of seeing what happens. It may not seem like a high bar, but it provides a sense of satisfaction.

As far as how the Mugsters gameplay feels, Reinkout has created a somewhat tedious but overall workable control scheme. Interacting with the world and the objects around you feels fine, but the way you move and view the level is sometimes frustrating. The crux of issues in Mugsters comes from the player's nebulous and omniscient perspective. This works while walking through the level, which is a hefty amount of the game, but as soon as the action picks up (you start driving a car, a horde of enemies rushes and attacks, etc.), the camera angle becomes your worst enemy. The game uses both tank controls and allows the player to rotate the camera, creating quite the dichotomy. While many of the blunders due to these opposing control schemes are not huge issues, it does become a nuisance to run your truck into a wall until it explodes and kills you. On top of this, the perspective can likewise make you lose your character if you end up in a corner, among trees, or behind massive rock structures. God forbid an enemy runs up to you during this time. With that being said, Mugsters still feels good to play, even though the pace is a bit slow due to the massive perspective. However, this ends up working out to the player's benefit, allowing them to see further along into the island, and plan more for how they'll solve the next puzzle. While the controls can sometimes work against you, it still feels pretty good to manipulate the world.

The angular art style in Mugsters is pretty jarring. The character moves pretty slowly in this game, so the visuals have to be alluring to keep the player's attention, and Reinkout delivers. As a primer, the hub world and each level begin with a brief but harsh glitchy visual static as you're dropped onto the island, which is surrounded by razor-sharp trees and jagged plateaus. Everything in the game is adorned in flat faces and pointed edges; textures are so devoid of curves that they almost look compressed.

This artistic choice is bold and alluring, but it isn't even the most eye-catching of the visuals. No, that accolade rests in the color palette; bright, neon red rocks abut the deep apricot orange ground in a stark and fascinating way, and the vibrant greens and cool, icy blues of the trees and lasers serve as good accents. The use of these contrasting hues is reminiscent of EA Dice's parkouring platformer Mirror's Edge, only with more variety.

The only caveat to this choice is that the shading sometimes makes different areas blended, so you'll drive up a red rock and suddenly not be able to move anymore because you couldn't see the surface of the bump in front of you. A simple camera rotation fixes this, but it's annoying to have to constantly rotate to make out the world around you. That issue aside, beautiful wouldn't be the right word to describe the visual aesthetics of Mugsters, but it's surely fascinating and something to see.

The sound used in Mugsters is like the rest of the game: minimal. The score of each level consists of two discordant tones that alternate ominously, so it's incredibly easy for the game to feel empty and awkward. However, the striking visuals and captivating gameplay more than compensate for the minimal audio. This, coupled with the fact that the player is trying to escape a desolate island and doesn't communicate with anyone else in the game make the choice of incredibly monotonous (or duo-tonous, technically) music justifiable and even appropriate. This simplicity is aided by the attention to the sound effects: the chugging of a truck, the cartoonish explosion of a red barrel, and the foreboding hum of a violent robot. The audio is used to make each interaction with the environment feel more real and gratifying.

Throughout Mugsters, Reinkout has created a game that solidifies how well interactivity and fun work together. The addition of a simple goal and no instructions makes this game an absolute blast to play. While the controls can sometimes be wonky, Mugsters still works well. In general, even the game's side missions (collecting people to save from the levels, destroying certain weapons, etc.) are fun, intriguing, and feel like they're worth the time. Coupled with the vibrant aesthetics and minimal tone and sound, this makes Mugsters a fascinating puzzle game that feeds the player's curiosity like few other games have.

Score: 8.0/10

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