Bizarre enough to make Darwin raise an eyebrow
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Fortunately, Experiment 101 tells us the prompts will be toned down in the final game
Vitality almost radiates out of the screen in waves. A year has passed since our last demo of this open-world actionRPG, in which its profusion of ideas meant well but presented as rather rough and scatty. In that time, Experiment 101’s team has grown quietly, but dramatically – and its game has flourished in kind. With some polish, what once seemed like overexuberance is now starting to look rooted in reality. Well, as much as a game about a kung-fu red panda that can mutate its body at will to gain the upper hand – or indeed, hands – can reasonably be. Yes, you’ll start out moving a point around a circular area in the character creator to simultaneously adjust appearance and stats: opt for a brainier build, for instance, and your red (or blue, or pink) panda will sprout a Megamind-esque head. But you can level up and respec throughout the game to better adapt to your surroundings.
Biomutant’s world has undergone largescale natural disaster, the Tree Of Life at the centre suffocated by poisonous oil. Certain areas have been covered in harsh frosts, while others are now sizzling deserts or radioactive swamps. It’s survival of the fittest, essentially: if you want to explore dangerous areas, you’ll need to evolve at ‘biohazard booths’ by growing extra fur, or a pair of wings, or perhaps packing on a few extra pounds at the expense of speed to better protect yourself against enemy attacks.
One mutation lets you summon giant, bouncy mushrooms to use as platforms to high places; another, Mucus Bubble, is equally suited to traversal and combat, allowing your character to both float through the air and roll up enemies in a kind of disgusting Katamari. Moth Mouth is a more fighting-focused mutagen that somehow gives our hero the ability to vomit swarms of moths into an enemy’s face, confusing the recipient so much that they begin to attack their allies. (We suspect that if this were actually biologically possible, red pandas wouldn't be quite as endangered as they are now.)
It’s bizarre stuff, and it gets weirder. The third stage of a wonderfully Monster Hunteresque boss fight against a Jumbo Puff – which is chewing very uncooperatively on one of the Tree Of Life’s five roots – takes place inside the creature. Once we’re gulped down, we attempt to climb our way out of its stomach juices towards the heart: we fail our first attempt and are unceremoniously ejected partway out of the creature’s anus, then sat upon and squashed to death. Our second go (with some careful use of Mucus Bubble) is more successful, meaning we’re soon unleashing kung-fu fury upon an enormous beating heart until the creature keels over.
Strangest of all is the fact that Biomutant is really starting to make an odd kind of sense as a whole. Experiment 101 co-founder Stefan Ljungqvist was one of the key developers at Avalanche on Just Cause 2, after all, and the same riotously creative spirit is running amok in this game. Granted, we could still do without the aesthetically discordant comicbook “BIFF!”s and “POW!”s punctuating the Batman: Arkham- esque scraps, the patronising narrator and, most of all, the highly obnoxious amount of ‘Objective complete’ prompts, one of which appears to celebrate us simply getting into a lift. Fortunately, Experiment 101 tells us the prompts will be toned down in the final game, and that you’ll be able to control how much you see and hear of Biomutant’s word balloons and voiceover. It’s encouraging that the studio is willing to prune away some of its excessive design ahead of release later this year: if Biomutant doesn’t choke itself on its own abundance, it may well develop into one of the most authentically fresh adventures in recent memory.
Developer Experiment 101 Publisher THQ Nordic Format PC, PS4, Xbox One Origin Sweden Release December 31