Let’s address the robot-shaped elephant in the room before we start: Max Mustard is unabashedly a love letter to the PSVR classic Astro Bot: Recue Mission. In fact, after Sony announced that the much anticipated sequel was going to be flat, Toast Interactive were quick to chime in that all was not lost since VR still had Max.

And you know what, that’s absolutely fine. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is held in extremely high regard by all those who have played it (including myself), and very few games have even attempted to recapture that magic. Sony proved that 3D platforming in VR can work extremely well; yet, aside from the likes of Moss and Lucky’s Tale, there have been very few imitators.

So, with that out of the way, I’m going to refrain from making direct comparisons to Astro Bot. I know that there are similarities. You know that there is. But the important thing is that Max Mustard is trying to carry on that mantle whilst also trying to do its own thing.

And I’m pleased to say that the game is an absolute delight. 

Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.

CUTTING THE MUSTARD
If there’s one thing the super wealthy want, it’s an adorable creature in a cage to adorn their bedside table. At least, that’s what the nefarious capitalist Stubbins believes. Using his technological monstrosities, he has captured these ‘mudpups’ and plans to sell them off; as such, it’s up to you and the inventor-turned-hero Max Mustard to stop him.

Even though the overall story is pretty much by-the-numbers for a 3D platformer, you won’t really care all that much as soon as you take control of Max. Using a pair of on-screen controllers, you’ll guide her around from your fixed perspective, with the camera moving forward naturally as you move beyond the current screen. Max can jump and briefly hover with her boots, allowing her to platform with precision – although she will also be able to acquire additional permanent and temporary upgrades as the game goes on.

It’s not just Max taking centre stage, however, as you’ll also be able to do more than guide her around. Occasionally, you’ll be granted a temporary weapon that can assist Max. Usually this will be a plunger gun (which really struck a chord with my Quackshot nostalgia) that can hit targets and enemies, but you’ll also be able to get a Luigi’s Mansion style suction gun too. They’re a nice way to keep things feeling fresh.

Not that things ever gets stale, as the levels are expertly constructed and take inspiration from all the best 3D platformers. Almost every level throws in something new to keep you interested, whether it’s anti-gravity as you jump around in space, or ‘blinking blocks’ in a rooftop party environment. There may not be anything you haven’t seen before, but it takes all the stuff from the platformers you know and love and uses it to excellent effect. Part of that is down to being in VR, but I think it’s also down to how tight the controls are. It ensures that the platforming is never overly difficult, but it encourages veterans to try out risky manoeuvres to try and skip unnecessary platforming. It’s a shame the game doesn’t record the time taken to beat each level, as otherwise it would be a speed-runner’s dream.

If I had one complaint about the game, it’s really that I wish there was more of it. Whilst the game does have great pacing, I still found myself hankering for more at the end. I think a lot of that is down to how straightforward almost all of the mudpups are to find in each stage, giving you little reason to go back. This isn’t necessarily a problem as such, but it would have been nice to have had a proper excuse to revisit each stage to mop up anything I missed. However, I found that there were only ever a few stages where I failed to rescue everyone.

But the only reason why this is my only negative is because the game is just so damn fun to play. It may not quite be as good as the game I promised not to mention, but it’s surprisingly not that far off. And that is one hell of a compliment.

VERDICT
Max Mustard is an absolute must buy for 3D platforming fans. It’s expertly crafted with precise controls and a constant stream of new gameplay elements to keep you engaged. Hopefully we see more from Max in the near future, as this absolutely deserves to be a longtime franchise.