Max Mustard is the blissful VR rebirth of a popular 32-bit genre

A Max Mustard screenshot from the Meta Quest 3
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

I can't begin to describe my elation when Max Mustard first popped onto my Meta Quest 3 screens. The vibrant colors, quirky enemies, lovable animations, plunger gun, and jet boots all scream 90s platformer, and yet it's debuting for the first time in 2024, and in VR, no less.

A VR platformer sounds a bit strange until you think of the evolution of the platformer genre. All of the earliest examples from the genre were side-scrolling 2D games like Pitfall and Super Mario Bros. A few decades later, 3D platformers like Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, and Sonic Adventure would take the concept into 3D space and revolutionize it completely.

Since there's no 4D, taking the genre into VR makes the most sense when you think about it. Now, instead of just moving your character, you yourself can look around the world, better approximate 3D depth, and even interact with the virtual world with your own two hands.

The best Meta Quest games, like the Moss series, Ghost Giant, and Lucky's Tale, have already proven this formula to be successful, but it's the original PSVR's AstroBot Rescue Mission is the gold standard in VR platformers.

Thankfully, Max Mustard is here to try and wrestle the title away from Astro, delivering similar precision mechanics, hidden secrets throughout each level, jump boots, and even in-game controller upgrades to the now-classic title. Adding a plunger gun to my controller was a brilliant way to enhance interaction with the world, particularly in places tough for your joystick-controller character to reach.

I had my doubts going in, but they were assuaged almost instantly with the game's Saturday morning cartoon-like intro. After all, the indie developer has only made one other game before — the ever-popular but highly gimmicky Richie's Plank Experience — yet the enthusiasm for this new title can't help but be felt in every second spent in its vibrant world.

Platformers are always a collectathon, but Max Mustard rewards you with upgrades from an item shop in exchange for collectables.

As you'd expect from a platformer game, the most basic goal in Max Mustard is to get to the end of each level successfully, all while collecting as many items as possible along the way. You'll pick up different colored coins, jump on the heads of baddies, spin kick open crates to free trapped creatures, and collect power-ups that give you an edge in specific scenarios.

What's nice is that collecting coins isn't just for one-ups or bragging rights. Coins allow you to purchase upgrades from the item shop. One of the initial cheap upgrades includes a camera rotation option, letting you easily rotate around each level without needing to stand up or physically turn around in your seat.

The game is also perfectly playable in a seated position. I found this game to be most enjoyable when playing seated, which isn't something I'd say about most VR games.

The music is whimsical, and the environments remind me quite a bit of the original Ratchet & Clank. Each world offers a good bit of variety, and you'll navigate to each level via an overworld map similar to many Super Mario games.

Max Mustard challenges AstroBot Rescue Mission, delivering similar precision mechanics, hidden secrets throughout each level, jump boots, and even in-game controller upgrades.

The sound design is mostly good, but I felt like there were a few times when additional sound effects would have added extra depth. I also had to repeat some of the light story sequences because I was impatient and walked off a cliff, so I'd love a "skip" button in these sorts of scenarios.

All in all, this is the VR platformer I've been waiting for and is wholly worth the $29.99 price on Meta Quest. The game is also coming to PSVR 2 and Steam VR sometime this Summer.

Image

Max Mustard

The platformer makes its glorious return to VR in Max Mustard, a whimsical return to 90s gaming glory. Now with the charm and interactivity that only VR can bring.

Get it at <a href="https://www.meta.com/experiences/5269080709783454/" data-link-merchant="meta.com"">Meta Quest store

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu