Mus­cle World

Nav­i­gate a mas­sive cave in the mys­te­ri­ous Mus­cle World.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Tom Sykes

Mus­cle World is a game of care­ful re­source man­age­ment

Suf­fer now! And live the rest of your life as a cham­pion!” It’s an in­spi­ra­tional quote I’m think­ing of pin­ning to the fridge—or per­haps over the toi­let, in case of curry the night be­fore—and I have the gru­el­ing Mus­cle World to thank for it. It’s a quote that spurs you on ev­ery time you dare to rest in­side its (pos­si­bly end­less) cav­ern, be­fore your pants-clad avatar picks him­self up to re­sume his ar­du­ous jour­ney.

What, ex­actly, is your mis­sion here? Why have you clam­bered into this labyrinth, wear­ing noth­ing but your tight un­der­wear? Mus­cle World isn’t the type of game to sim­ply dish out easy an­swers. In­stead, the real story lies in the process, as you push your­self ever harder to reach the far­thest reaches of an in­hos­pitable cave. While there are en­e­mies to fight—more on those later— Mus­cle World dif­fers from most RPGs in that com­bat isn’t the fo­cus. Climb­ing takes the spot­light, and good god is it tense.

We’ve been spoilt by the Un­charted se­ries, where clam­ber­ing up a moun­tain is as ef­fort­less as slic­ing the prover­bially heated knife through but­ter. It’s not that way here at all. For one thing, you’re not climb­ing sheer walls, but grad­u­ally crawl­ing across the ceil­ing, us­ing your arms to mon­key-bar be­tween dis­tant is­lands hang­ing in the gloom. Make it to one of these respite ar­eas, and you can drop to the ground and go off in search of a mat to spend a night on, or pills you can gob­ble to en­hance your stamina, be­fore hop­ping back up to the ceil­ing to re­sume your jour­ney.

How­ever, ev­ery action comes with a cost. As you crawl along the roof of the world your stamina will drain, sec­ond by sec­ond, your char­ac­ter fall­ing into the void when it hits zero. Kick­ing and leap­ing will make your en­ergy de­plete faster, so you’ll want to avoid un­nec­es­sary ex­er­tions at all costs.

Don’t look down

From the out­set, then, Mus­cle World is a game of care­ful re­source man­age­ment. You need to con­stantly push your­self, as ex­er­cise im­proves your strength and leads you on­wards to the rest of the cav­ern—but you also need take a break and ex­plore on foot now and again, hope­fully find­ing one of those pre­cious mats. Your stamina won’t recharge with­out one, mak­ing it all the more ter­ri­fy­ing when you’re low on en­ergy and spy an­other climber shuf­fling your way.

Yep, turns out there are other gym bun­nies mak­ing their way through this hor­ri­ble cav­ern, and they seem to move slightly faster than you do. In a tus­sle you can only kick, as can they, and af­ter a des­per­ate few sec­onds of fum­bling one of you will tum­ble mer­ci­lessly into the chasm be­low.

What the hell is this game? This enig­matic, at­mo­spheric role­play­ing game that feels like this gen­er­a­tion’s Yume Nikki. Its test­ing na­ture and chilly at­mos­phere evoke FromSoft­ware’s peer­less RPGs, but in its sys­tems and struc­ture, its eerie world and its dead-eyed gym­go­ers, Mus­cle World feels glo­ri­ously new.

ver­dict

You’ll need re­solve, but your re­ward is tense ex­plo­ration and com­bat in a won­der­fully un­set­tling world.

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It kicks off with you chuck­ing a mys­te­ri­ous idol into a fire­place.

The ri­vals in your spa­cious gym doubt your com­mit­ment.

It’s fright­en­ing when an­other climber starts chas­ing you.

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