There’s something to be said about the bizarre human tendency for mayhem, to break things in bombastic and exciting ways, and Mugsters does a great job of tapping into that chaotic desire. Dropping you onto an island in the midst of an alien invasion, Mugsters is all about creating messes and causing explosions, although it tends to get a little too caught up in the madness for its own good. Still, there’s plenty to love here, and we haven’t played anything else quite like it.
Gameplay in Mugsters could be most closely described as a mixture of Grand Theft Auto with puzzle elements. You run around, punch aliens, drive cars into walls, and blow stuff up to progress, which can make for a deliciously chaotic experience. Each level places you in a small and self-contained island sandbox in which you’re expected to fulfill certain objectives. There’s a main objective — which could involve destroying satellites, generators, or other alien hardware — a few green crystals to collect and a few humans to save. None of these objectives are technically mandatory, you just need to make it to an aeroplane somewhere in the island and escape to clear it, though they are required for unlocking later levels and other content, like time trials.
What’s nice about this setup is that it doesn’t require you to complete everything in one run; as long as you make it off the island, any progress you made towards any of the objectives will be carried over for the next time you play that level. This prevents things from becoming too frustrating, as all progress in a run is reset if you die before making it to the plane, and it encourages you to focus on one objective at a time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take too long for the repetition of these objectives to become evident, and this is something that drags down the overall experience a little too much.
Though the level layouts are varied and gradually ascend in difficulty and complexity as you go on, the game fails to introduce enough new mechanics as it goes on to keep the player engaged. One can only collect crystals and blow up generators so many times before a sense of déjà vu sets in, creating this sense of already having played a level that you’re only experiencing for the first time. It’s clear that the hook of Mugsters is to be found in goofing around with its physics, and while this is certainly fun for a while, the lack of notable incentives to keep you interested puts a bit of a low ceiling on one’s enjoyment of the gameplay.
This can be alleviated somewhat by playing multiplayer with a friend nearby, and the support for split Joy-Con play is certainly a plus. When you have a friend, stages are remixed a bit to account for having two characters onscreen, leading to some environmental puzzles that’ll require a bit of communication and cooperation to succeed. It’s not much of a change, but having someone else to goof around with can lead to plenty of laughs when a ramp is missed and the car you were driving is sent careening into the ocean. The option to differentiate your characters’ appearances in multiplayer also helps to deal with visibility issues, but this feels a bit like a band-aid for a much bigger issue which arises if you and your partner are too far apart. The camera already feels a little too zoomed out to begin with, but throwing another person into the mix can lead to some situations where it's nigh impossible to see your character.
From a presentation perspective, Mugsters manages to satisfy, but also leaves something to be desired. The low-poly visual aesthetic is enticing at first, but much like the gameplay, it starts to get a little stale as over time. Deep colours help to keep things varied, but there’s a certain sort of artificiality to the looks that ends up feeling a little bit cheap. The worst part about this visual style, however, is how the camera takes a zoomed out isometric view to the proceedings, which can make it hard to pick out your character on the Switch’s small screen. This is alleviated slightly when playing on a TV, but it makes Mugsters feel like an poor fit for Nintendo’s hybrid.
In terms of replayability, there’s plenty here for those who aren’t bothered by the repetition, with dozens of levels (and time trials for each of them) as well as online leaderboards to drive competition. Couple all of that with the local co-op, and you have a game that just about justifies the price of admission, although not everyone will want to buy into this one. We wish there was more to Mugsters than what’s present, yet at the same time, it’s tough to argue against the value being represented in the existing content.
Mugsters is a decent action puzzle game that will no doubt prove to be satisfying to a certain kind of audience. Goofy, physics-based puzzles, fun multiplayer, and a solid amount of content are definite positives, though these are hamstrung by the poor camera and grindy repetition of the gameplay. We’d give this one a light recommendation, as there’s plenty of enjoyment to be found, but this is by no means a must-play.