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

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