Max Mustard may be a bit of a curveball when it comes to names, but this traditional 3D platformer reimagined for VR delivers in nearly every other way, serving up some very Astro Bot Rescue Mission (2018) and Lucky’s Tale (2016) vibes in the process.

Max Mustard Details:

Available On: Quest 2/3/Pro (coming later to Steam & PSVR 2)
Reviewed On: Quest 3
Release Date: March 21st, 2024
Price: $30
Developer: Toast Interactive

Gameplay

Max Mustard isn’t reinventing the wheel here: it’s a solid, extremely well-built 3D platformer that, for all its positives, is a pretty standard experience overall if you’ve played any 3D platformer in the past 30 years, flatscreen or otherwise.

That’s probably the most negative thing I’ll say about this plucky little adventure, which tasks you with guiding the eponymous rocket-boot-clad companion through a world of fairly easy enemies, less easy environmental stuff, and four boss encounters that follow the strict orthodoxy of a ‘hurt it three times and it dies’ variety.

Image courtesy Toast Interactive

While the story is fairly forgettable—delivered almost entirely through letters that pop up at the end of levels—the action rarely disappoints, as you’re served up straight shots through 40 bespoke levels, many of which harken back to the Super Mario titles from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

That said, there isn’t a ton of enemy variety, as all baddies regardless of movement or attack style only take a single bonk on the head to kill, making enemies less interesting than the admittedly very cool environmental gadgets that you start encountering around the second (of four) worlds. Those fun and inventive moving platforms and increasingly difficult environmental traps are the real stars of the show here, it seems.

View post on imgur.com

And if you haven’t noticed from the clip above, Max Mustard is unabashedly a love letter to those platformers past and present, like Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario World, and the more recent Super Mario 3D Land, but also the headlining VR platformers of today too, including the illustrious Astro Bot Rescue Mission on PSVR and Lucky’s Tale on PC VR, PSVR and Quest. With the level of fit and finish, and first-person interaction (more on that below), you might even think of Max Mustard as the Astro Bot of the Quest platform.

And like those platformers from years past, Max Mustard also offers up the familiar overworld map that takes you linearly to the final boss battle, which (no spoilers!) satisfyingly puts together all of the skills you learned throughout the game.

Overworld map | Image captured by Road to VR

Along the way you’ll find minigames and the occasional shop too where you can spend coins on abilities, such as extra hearts, coin bonuses, and new combat moves. You’ll want (but probably not really need) those new moves too, as levels start to ramp in difficulty around world three, which introduces some challenging environmental obstacles, like boxes that disappear and reappear to the beat of the game’s soundtrack, torrents of cannonballs, one-use jump pads, and more. Having an extra heart, a better attack move, or rocket boots that do damage to enemies is all a neat bonus to help out.

You wouldn’t be far off in calling Max Mustard the “spiritual successor” to Sony’s Astro Bot, because like Astro Bot every so often you’re given first-person gadgets, like a dart gun and a fan gun, which you use in certain levels, the dart gun making the biggest impact throughout the game. Here I am blasting at incoming rockets from the game’s tutorial boss:

View post on imgur.com

Still, I wish the first-person gadgets were a little better integrated into regular levels, and had more variation overall considering how cool they can be. You do however get the chance to hone your shooting skills in minigame challenges where you can earn coins to use in the shop, as well as get extra ‘mudpups’, which are normally littered throughout regular levels, acting as a sort of secondary currency which are used to unlock levels as you move forward.

As for enemies, regular baddies don’t really put up much of a challenge, however the game’s four main boss battles are significantly more interesting, each of them staying very loyal to the well-worn platforming tropes you’re probably used to. That said, it’s hard not to smile at just how well Max Mustard nails the whole aesthetic and feel of basically everything.

Max Mustard took me around five hours to complete, although I took it pretty slow due to wanting to collecting all three mudpups found in each level. You don’t need to be a completionist to get through the game with ease though, which could take you three to four hours overall.

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Immersion

Max Mustard is stupid cute, and offers a lots of level variation in both functional design and overall feel. Here’s me using the fan gun to suck up enemies and errant coins after having splashed down into the water—the sort of totally unexpected one-off level transitions you’ll experience throughout.

View post on imgur.com

That said, first-person interactions are comparatively rare in Max Mustard, so you’ll be bopping around as Max most of the time instead of dealing with enemies like you see in the clip above. That puts an increased importance on the visual and functional aspects of levels, which are thankfully so rock solid that it’s easy to snap into your new ‘floating head’ POV and enjoying the game’s bright and colorful art style.

Again, I wish there were more first-person gadgets, although you have to give it to Max Mustard for including them at all, as the game seems to prioritize fast and fluid movement through levels instead of the heavier Astro Bot-y mix of first and third-person gameplay.

Comfort

The game’s camera necessary follows around Max, but does so in a way that’s gentle and comfortable. The decision by the studio to include snap turning as a purchasable upgrade back at the shop however feels a bit weird, as it’s pretty necessary to reposition yourself when turn around in levels to grab coins or mudpups you may have missed. Granted, this feature is unlocked with in-game coins, although it should be a standard movement scheme out of the box.

There are a few moments of forced motion in one-off events, although nothing that should set off alarm bells in motion sick-prone users, making Max Mustard pretty much perfect for anyone, including VR first-timers.

Max Mustard’ Comfort Settings – March 21st, 2024

Turning
Artificial turning
Snap-turn
Quick-turn
Smooth-turn
Movement
Artificial movement
Teleport-move
Dash-move
Smooth-move
Blinders
Head-based
Controller-based
Swappable movement hand
Posture
Standing mode
Seated mode
Artificial crouch
Real crouch
Accessibility
Subtitles
Interface language
Languages English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean
Dialogue audio
Languages English
Adjustable difficulty
Two hands required
Real crouch required
Hearing required
Adjustable player height
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
8.5
Newsletter graphic

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • impurekind

    Tried it and it’s okay, but I think the original Lucky’s Tale basically did all this better way back on the Rift CV1, from the visuals and audio to the controls and level design, so it all felt a bit lacking as a result. It doesn’t seem like enough when nearly a decade later we’re not seeing something that feels like it’s nearly ten years newer and improved. But a few patches and probably improved visuals in a PC or PSVR2 version might at least help it a bit.

    • Runesr2

      Agreed, but Lucky’s Tale was made for PCVR in 2016 and for gpus like the GTX 970 with about 4 tflops (fp32) – and therefore much faster than the Adreno 650 (1.2 tflops) in Quest 2, and Adreno 740 (about 2.4 tflops as Meta reduced speed to save battery) in Quest 3. Adreno 650 and 740 are used in many phones, the ultra-slow Quest gpus are a far cry from current PCVR gpus.

      • wowgivemeabreak

        Your one man crusade against standalone wherever you go is truly impressive. I really don’t think I have ever seen a single post by you at Steam, Reddit, or elsewhere where you aren’t bashing stand alone compared to PCVR. Keep fighting that losing fight for the rest of your VR using life instead of moving on and accepting reality.

        I still have a feeling you have never even used a Quest headset. I prefer PCVR yet standalone can be very solid.

        • Nevets

          But the post you replied to seems balanced and sensible no? Whatever the rest of his post history is like, and I haven’t seen it, you can’t hold it against him every time he posts something reasonable.

  • NotMikeD

    I’m really not understanding the concept of paying in-game currency to unlock snap turning (a control method)? Can’t I just physically turn around and save myself some coin?

    • reastes

      Hi! I can help answer that with some bonus explanations.

      1. Yes, you can turn around physically whenever you want to.

      2. We designed the game to never need to turn around.

      3. Despite this, some players insisted on wanting to turn around (which is perfectly fine) and they were sometime seated. Some of them also have flexibility issues. So we needed a solution – snap turning in a shop item. 10 coins at the shop is very cheap when some items are 1500.

      4. Why not just enable snap turning by default? Good question. We found that testers in games like this often “button mash” to try everything. This would often engage the snap turning and now the player will play the whole level without realising at a very awkward level.

      5. Why not make it a setting? Because a low percentage of players check the settings for it. We needed to find a way to elegantly include it in the game without it being enabled by default.

      6. Why not make it smooth rotation? Because the game is designed to move perfectly strait forwards down the level. With smooth rotation, it’ll be awkward constantly trying to find the sweet spot.

      Hope that helps! Conclusion is: there’s pros and cons to every solution and we think we found one with the most pros for least cons.

    • Nevets

      In fairness the currency cost was trivial.

  • JCat_NY

    Been playing it. VRDL’s score is on the mark. Overall, Astrobot is still the at the top, with Max, right behind it, alongside Lucky’s Tale. I still go back to play Lucky’s Tale through Virtual Desktop and Quest 3, along with a nice serving of wif-fi 6, 120hz and pushed up resolution, making Lucky’s Tale still the most visually appealing (and pure fun). Don’t pass on Max Mustard if you’re a fan of platformers (an area still lacking in VR), because this bad boy has a perfect fun flow.

    • reastes

      Thank you! We focused a lot of time on the flow and making sure the quality and variety was there to give that “just one more level” feeling.

  • philingreat

    It is a solid platformer, but for me the camera is too close to the action. I always wanted to zoom out. The levels also would look better when it’s smaller. What was really anoying is the line flickering as there doesn’t seem to be anti aliasing. The Quest 3 can do better. Unfortunately, the levels are designed like a tunnel. You move forward and there is not really the feeling of exploring a level as in the Mario games.

    • reastes

      We just released an update with 54% res increase on Quest 3. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Kudos to the team, this seems a pretty solid game

  • wowgivemeabreak

    I’m still trying to figure out if Max Mustard is supposed to be a male or female since you sure can’t easily tell by the character design. The fact nothing about this game seems to say if Max is a he or she (perhaps I missed it in this review as I skimmed through/semi read it) makes me think the developers of the game decided to pander to a tiny minority and made it purposely ambiguous. Pretty sad but also not a surprise.

    • shadow9d9

      Imagine wasting time out of your day thinking about this kind of utter nonsense. Just the fact that it came to your mind is concerning. Time to find a hobby.

    • reastes

      Max is Female. We tested multiple characters and she was the most fun in gameplay. This is a game-play first game.

    • Jeff

      Why do you need to figure it out? Does it really break your fragile mind not being able to categorize a fictional character? Turn off your hysteria machine of choice that is making you irritated by such things, and enjoy the game.

    • Nevets

      Oh stop clutching your pearls for crying out loud. You’d find something to moan about if you won the Lottery, you intolerant sourpuss.

  • LazyFox

    This looks really fun. I’ll check it out when I’m able.