Team 17 knows how to pick them, you’ve got to give them that. Whether it’s Overcooked, Yooka-Laylee, The Escapists, or more recently, Yoku’s Island Express, Team 17’s portfolio is ever expanding and ever diverse. The latest addition to their mahoosive log of games is Mugsters, but does this stand quite as tall as the aforementioned titles? Yes, yes it does. Though I’ll admit, I had absolutely no idea what I could hope to endure going from the title alone. In fact, I can say the exact same thing about the game’s blunt opening few moments; there’s very little to go off.
Mugsters throws players into its world, which you and I would refer to as a hub (despite the game not suggesting that) and from here, you’re free to get to grips with some basic controls and get the lay of the land before heading into a level. That being said, Mugsters does not offer up a tutorial, which is an odd design choice for a game that’s got puzzle elements running through it. Whatever the case, what I will say is that the game isn’t overly hard to get the hang of, so it shouldn’t take too long at all for players to soak up Mugsters interfaces and controls.
The hub is broken down into a few sections, with portals in place to access wider portions of the game. Here, there’s a wide variety of different challenges to overcome, most of which consist of rescuing humans, collecting crystals, destroying or adjusting some form of terrain and escaping each location. The former three objectives tend to be optional, with the latter being the main event. There’s also a time-attack variation per-level to enjoy, once the objectives have been achieved. I found the difficulty curve to be well set, with a nice climb in complexity throughout.
The camera can be a bit jarring to contend with, simply due to the lack of a solid zoom feature. This can make distinguishing who is who – when there are multiple players in a level – quite hard, but, in the grand scheme of things, the game does little else wrong. Mugsters is a physics-based action puzzler with semi-wide open sandbox levels, and the gameplay toys with its identity remarkably well. This is a game of trial and error to begin with, however, where other games fall short of the mark by relying on this design choice, Mugsters only ever excels here.
It’s all about your creativity and your imagination; which, for a world that’s been overtaken by deadly aliens, will get you a long, long way. As progression is made, the game will start throwing enemies at you as well as other intricacies to keep you on your toes. The overarching objectives remain largely the same, but these newly introduced mechanics help to maintain Mugsters fun-factor. The enemy variants are far from deep, but they do require different tactics to tackle head-on. The same can be said about just working out how to get from one level to the next.
Hell, even sussing out how to obtain a deviously placed crystal can be a chore in itself, but Mugsters never robs you of the excitement nor does it buckle under the weight of its intriguing concept. Should you make use of the game’s physics and use a vehicle to reach that crystal up there? Or should you blow shit up to make for easier acquisition? Choices like this flow heavily through each and every level that Mugsters offers up, and for better or for worse, this is how you will spend most of your time. I love games like this and I have to say, Mugsters does the concept a lot of justice.
That’s where the puzzle aspects of the game comes into focus. You see, simply making it off each island is going to be easy work for anyone that immediately gels with the game, but when you throw in the additional objectives, well, that’s an entirely different story. Mugsters is a game that demands your attention and considerations. Players will often need to think outside the box to complete all of the tasks within, but despite the fact that this is all you’ll be doing, it’s bolstered and upheld by how much variation the game encompasses, ultimately making for a constantly dynamic experience.
Outside of the camera issue outlined above, my only other concern sits with the game’s AI. Humans that you free will follow you wherever you go and without a care in the world for their own safety. Several times did I kill them with my car or plane, and if that wasn’t the case, they would aimlessly fall victim to each level’s hazards. Thankfully the game charts your progress, so if this is the only thing you fail at, the tasks that you do complete will remain fulfilled. Sure, it’s hardly ideal but a silver lining is a silver lining. It would have been nice to see some commands implemented to tell the AI what to do.
The co-op may indeed feel tacked on, given that it’s exactly the same as single-player, but it’s a nice addition nevertheless. It helps, of course, that the game handles wonderfully and fluid. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on foot, in the sky or taking to one of the game’s many vehicles, Mugsters holds its own. It’s the epitome of a simple idea made deep, fun and massively engaging. There’s also some customization thrown in too. When you’ve finished a level and find yourselves back at the game’s hub, you’ll have the ability to change your appearance and race in new and unlocked cars. It’s a blast.
Tying all of this together, Mugsters’ visuals are full of color and personality. Each and every level stands out in its own way through some subtle yet notable changes to the layout and theme. The audio cues pop well too, lending the game its sharp and immersive edge. I wasn’t a massive fan of the game’s soundtrack but in total fairness, it doesn’t become annoying after long stretches of play, it just fails to really stand out. When all is said and done, if you enjoy games that give you a great level of freedom to work out how to overcome them, Mugsters is very unlikely to disappoint you.
Mugsters offers up a great deal of variety across its sizable portion of well developed, colorful, physics-based levels. There’s a few issues present, such as the daft AI and the counter-intuitive camera, but even so, the game remains fun, engaging and wide open to choice. Whether you’re exploring, innovating or even just messing around, Mugsters’ puzzles will keep you entertained for hours on end.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.