We’re big fans of physics based puzzle games here at Codec Moments, so with no hesitation we wanted to get our hands on Mugsters – the latest game from Finnish developer Reinkout and published by Team 17. In a world invaded by aliens, it’s up to you to rescue imprisoned humans, take out the oppressive infrastructure and snaffle anything useful on site. How you achieve the objective is up to you, but it’s most likely going to involve vehicles, explosives and smashing things up before escaping as quickly as you can. It’s time to get the planet back one island at a time.
Opening up in a hub area with no tutorial, no instruction and no back story is a bold move for a game that relies on environmental interactions to get through the challenges ahead, but Mugsters does just that by giving you a small playground to figure out how it all works before hitting the islands that make up the levels. Heading into the main game sets up three objectives to complete in each island – rescue all the humans, collect all the crystals and complete the main objective which can be anything from destroying equipment to powering up generators. Get these done and it’s then a case of finding some transport to get off the island and onto the next scenario. Sounds simple doesn’t it? In the early stages it provides enough variation to teach the basic approaches, then it ramps up the difficulty and demands broader thinking to clear the levels.
The environment is a mix of platforming and puzzle solving, usually simple things like lowering a barrier or getting to a chamber containing captured humans. What makes it tricky are the traps and enemies that inhabit the islands. They range from electric barriers and aliens that persistently chase to large UFOs capable of abduction or level ending disintegration. Dealing with these is the first priority because rescuing fellow humans with a Benny Hill style stream of hunters coming after you is a pain at best, and deadly at worst. Thankfully there’s a nice variety of ways to tackle them. Jump in a car and run them over? Pick up some barrels and throw them to trigger an explosion? Push them into the sea? Combine harvest them? Drop spiked logs on their heads? On initial view of the islands you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re quite barren – it’s deceptive on how much you can actually do in there.
Because the puzzles are physics based, everything in Mugsters has weight and momentum, non more so than the cars. Forget to apply the handbrake and you’ll see them roll away from that switch you’d parked them on to open a barrier. It also means that each type you jump into handles differently and therefore they can be used for different jobs. Chunky trucks and bulldozers are perfect for forging a path through walls, whilst nimble sports cars can manoeuvre around the enemy or lead them into traps. The controls are responsive enough to manage some quite nippy driving, and even through the presentation is isometric, the camera swings around on your whim so you can always line up the best angle… as well as seek out hidden parts of the islands.
There are 25 islands in total with the last only being available once you’ve collected all the crystals in every other location. On top of this there are time trials for each island for you to master, and then there’s a full co-op mode as well with unique levels to get to grips with. It might not seem like a lot of content, but it’ll keep you occupied for more than a few hours, and will tax your brain and reflexes throughout the whole time spent playing. The only niggle I have is the requirements to unlock stages aren’t immediately clear – it works around 100% completing a set number to open up the next block of five. However, once open they can be tackled in any order, and as long as the objectives are done they remain that way even if you die.
Mugsters is pretty unique in both the style and substance, and has a depth that’s not immediately obvious. Giving the player free reign on how to solve each problem leads to experimentation that works almost as much as it fails, and makes for some satisfying action when it comes together. The presentation is minimalist, but smooth, crisp and colourful and oozes charm; and the audio is sinister and foreboding that counteracts the style of game, making for a truly engaging experience. If you’re looking for an interesting and challenging puzzler that lets you approach things in your own way then this is definitely worth a try.
A PS4 review copy of Mugsters was provided by Team 17’s PR team and the game is out now for PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch for around £9.99.