Max Mustard Review – Gaming Nexus

May 17, 2024 by No Comments

As a VR fan, I’ve come to vaguely hate first-person games in the VR space. While there are many great experiences to be had, it’s always a crapshoot how well a first-person game will do. After playing dozens and dozens of VR titles over the past five years, I’ve had my fill of nauseating motion mechanics and tacky sniper rifles. I’m much happier playing games that use concepts like scale and perspective to immerse me in their world. As a result, I’m always on the lookout for interesting third-person VR experiences.

In particular, I’m drawn to strategy and platformer titles in VR, as I deeply enjoy the feeling of “playing with my toys” in the VR space. While there have been some milestones in the VR platformer space (Moss, Lucky’s Tale, and of course Sony’s criminally overlooked Astrobot), not many companies have worked to expand the field. The style seems to come in fits and starts, which is a shame, because it’s so well-suited for VR.

That’s why Toast Interactive’s VR platformer Max Mustard is a breath of fresh air. Max Mustard isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s a fun and solidly made game that helps further cement platformers as a viable VR genre. The game is a colorful delight, designed in a way that fans of classic Mario-style games will instantly recognize.

In fact, Max seems to have a lot of shared DNA with the aforementioned titles. An overworld map here, a bit of first-person player involvement there, maybe a slice of verticality and visual depth thrown in for good measure. It seems that Toast Interactive wasn’t shy about borrowing from some of the best, carefully editing to make Max Mustard feel like its own unique experience.

Max Mustard has a story of sorts, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what it is. It seems that some bad guys have kidnapped the “midpops” of the game world, which is a bad thing. It’s up to Max to conquer a series of levels to save the midgets, who aren’t hidden on the critical path. Along the way, Max runs, jumps and kicks his way through an expertly designed platform-filled world.

The game is divided into a series of overworlds, each containing perhaps 12-15 levels. The player is occasionally given the option to choose between two levels, but for the most part, it’s a linear journey through Max Mustard-land. Each level has an interesting platforming “hook”, some new mechanic that Max must learn to overcome with himself (Max is happily gender non-specific) basic jump and rocket pack moves. Max collects coins along the way, which can be used to unlock new moves and some cool buffs (more health packs, extra boost time, things like that), but for the most part, jumping, rocket packs , and the early-learned spin-kick trick.

Max Mustard is designed in such a way that it can be enjoyed by both children and adults. The difficulty of the platforming is exactly where I had to focus. I was unable to coast through the game, but things never got so tough that I couldn’t progress after a few tries – and unlimited lives didn’t hurt. Each level has a few checkpoints, so even if you jump or fail to land correctly on a baddie (these guys are strictly the “jump on their head” type) you’ll be able to complete the entire level. Won’t get stuck repeating levels. It’s all quite forgiving and friendly.

Bits and pieces borrowed from other games are sprinkled throughout the game quite a bit, adding a little spice here and there without ever overwhelming the core gameplay. The parts of the game where the player operates a plunger shooting gun are fun distractions that appear every five or six levels but disappear in the blink of an eye. The player is not a mass-level participant in the story. And while Max does play around with verticality, the game doesn’t lean as strongly toward that mechanic as Astrobot, which seems to run around with its tiny protagonist all dizzy.

What Max does have is a sense of fluidity, and rock solid platforming. It must be nearly impossible when making a game like this to make the player character’s movement feel natural in response to the controller, as the player’s perspective is constantly changing. But I never once felt Max behaving in a way that was unnatural, and if I ever jumped, it was always my fault.

The game is also a visual delight. I played on Quest 3, and I have to say, Max Mustard is one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the system. The use of color is fantastic, and the graphics have enough detail to give a cartoonish sense of depth. On a technical level, this game clicks on all cylinders.

I noticed that the camera sometimes felt a little too close to the action. There were several points where I “lost” Max below me, and I sometimes had to physically back up a step or two to get a clearer sense of my surroundings. But in the grand scheme of things this is a minor thing.

Max Mustard may feel a bit derivative when considering earlier VR platformers, but there are so few games playing in this space that the game still delights and surprises. Most importantly, Max Mustard delivers a polished, professional experience, making it a pleasure to spend 8-10 hours with its lovable little protagonist.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the manufacturer/company.

About the author

Howdy, my name is Eric Hutter, and I’m a dad with a ton of kids. In my non-existent spare time, I like to play a variety of games including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I’m intrigued by the possibility of cloud gaming, and I often find myself looking for fun and interesting stories around the cloud on different platforms. I was an early adopter of the PSVR (I took delivery of one on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out a variety of games since day one. I have since added the Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities that VR multiplayer offers, and I try almost every multiplayer game that’s released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at the toy store for the PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast releases, so that era of gaming runs deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super suite gaming PC made by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I have no brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play games on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling the kids, I enjoy watching scary movies and doing all the other cheeky activities you might expect. I also co-host Historically podcastsWhere we review each film in order from different filmmakers, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check mine out. YouTube channel here.

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