Reviewed: January 21, 2003
Reviewed by: Mat Houghton
Released: November 11, 2002
Letís see here Ė power cable connected, memory chips in place, disc in position and ready to engage in spin up procedure, connection conduit secure, control interface ready. Now, all I need is to adjust the input and throw the power switch andÖ YES! ITíS ALIVE!! ALIVE!!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
All right, so Iíve always wanted to say that, at least now Iím doing it in the proper setting. Dr. Muto, for those of you who havenít seen a gaming magazine in the past five months, is Midwayís most recent foray into the intense and cutthroat crucible of platform games. You take on Professor Burnitall, head of Burnitall Industries, and his henchmen in order to rebuild your home planet, "Midway" (oddly enough), which was blown up in an unfortunate accident when they fired up a machine designed to end their energy crisis. Muto of course created the device.
In order to achieve all of your goals you must not only stea Ė I mean collect all the parts to the machine that will rebuild the planet, but also find the pieces of ďTerraĒ that will power the thing. Also you have your trusty Splizz gun ready to shock or destroy your enemies and the ability to splice your DNA with that of creatures you encounter on the way. If that wasnít enough you can also create devices to help you through and collect isotopes to power Al (lesser cousin to HAL for those sci-fi buffs out there) your intelligent computer and unlock other formulas and blueprints.
In other words youíve got your work cut out for you and all the Servants Of Burnitall out there arenít about to lend a helping hand.
The big draw for this game, or at least itís gimmick, is that you get to morph into different forms during the game in order to complete your missions. These include a mouse, spider, gorilla, fish, and pterodactyl. Each has itís own unique skills and abilities and puzzles appropriate to them. However, despite this innovation the different forms arenít really that interesting. All the forms have two attacks and they are the same; you get one that does damage, and one that either stuns or captures enemies. So really you get a form that fits in small places, on that climbs on webbing (or other viscous white fluids), one that can climb on monkey bars, one that flies, and one that swims.
This is about the only real drawback to the game, well that and the fact that eventually you just get bored. Usually the size of a platform game is a positive aspect, especially when itís this big, unfortunately you just end up doing the same thing over and over again. Itís about as interesting as wash, rinse, repeat in some instances.
On the other hand for anyone whoís secretly a pack rat (or not so secretly seeing as your bed doesnít really rest on the floor so much as on all those magazines stuffed underneath it). This game could be really called ďFind all the Little Glowing ThingiesĒ. You need to pick up hearts to increase your health or get more if youíve been hit. Collect isotopes to unlock blueprints to make gadgets and formulas for new morphs (by the by there are over 4000 isotopes in the game). Collect scrap to build the gadgets, collect DNA to use the formulas Ė you get the idea. While this is a little overwhelming, you can return to nearly any point in the game easily and you can get almost everything the first time through by being through and a little patient.
Camera work in the game is almost flawless, there are a myriad of interesting angles and the programmers are excellent at hiding things just off the beaten path. There are very few instances when you get stuck with completely terrible perspectives; and hey itís always nice to see a 3D platformer shift into a version of Donkey Kong at the drop of a hat.
The boss fights are innovative as well, though they devolve into a two-step process. Step one: find the trigger to lower the shield so you can hurt him. Step two: figure out how you have to hit it in order to make the damage stick, or just to hurt it. The neat thing about it is that they give you very little assistance in how to accomplish these two steps, but there is usually a visual clue or two to get you started.
Welcome to one of the ultimate worlds cobbled together from a bunch of spare parts. The phrase ďpost-apocalypticĒ comes to mind more than once; I mean most of the stuff in here looks to be in worse shape than the Falcon on Tatooine. Which is good because I donít think you could pull off all of the humor in this game in any other way. Aside from everything being covered in a thick crust of dirt, slime, and mildew the scenery looks in at least functional repair. There are four different planets that you visit and all of them are themed of course, and the themes are well kept throughout. In fact, the really interesting idea about this game is that the levels tie directly together with no real boundaries. Instead of a nice loading screen (though when you do see these they are hilarious because Muto doing the Swim or break dancing is just too funny) you just move from one area to the next and hit the waypoints along the way.
All the creatures in Muto are also just to the left of normal, or is it right. Anyway, thereís not one thing in this game that doesnít look like it was beaten liberally about the face with a capital "U" ugly club, or at least with Lewis Stevensonís acid trips. Take a moment to just savor the face on the Arichnidoc and youíll see what I mean.
Special effects arenít lacking, what with morphing, teleporting, shocking, invisibility, and invincibility, not to mention the super balls. Effects over all are not comparable to say Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank, but are nothing to sneeze at; there just really arenít too many ďblockbusterĒ events.
The only real complaint I have with the graphics is a distinct depth perception difficulty. There are several times when youíre not going to be sure just how far away the enemies are, so you may end up killing them too late or not hitting them at all. It happens rather infrequently, but every time it did I ate pain, usually with a side of death to follow.
One of the few instances of absolute perfection in matching the sounds to the graphics in a game is right here. The guy they got to voice Muto is just the right blend of repressed and frustrated nerd with super genius. If you could age Dexter about 30 years thatíd be just about right, except make him dirty. See thereís a LOT of cursing in this game; from the plethora of ďWhat the Ė bleeps!Ē to the various other "shits" and "damns" thrown in for good measure. The thing is that itís all just down right amusing. If you fall off a cliff Muto will plummet and yell crap all the way down. If you press the action button next to Mutoís bed with all the pin-ups around it he has a nice throaty giggle. Not only is Muto well voiced, his computer ("Hello Dave") is just far enough off the mark to avoid receiving a letter from Mr. Kubrickís attorney.
The music is good and remains in the background as it should, and the various bangs and whistles are all when and where they should be. There are a lot of them too because of all the pick-ups you have to find and each distinct thing has itís own effect. All are excellently mixed in, even the dog with the band saw sounds good. The star of the whole thing is the voices though, and the only complaint I have is that there isnít more of them.
There are a total of over 4,000 isotopes to collect, 17 pieces of the Genitor 9000, and 49 pieces of terra, 28 pieces of scrap, and over 200 DNA strands to collect for this game to be 100% in the can. You tell me if thatís good value or not. Obviously the levels are huge and get bigger as you progress. I spent 5 hours on the first planet alone, and nearly twice that on the second and third.
So thereís plenty of game time here even if you donít try to collect every little thing. Did I neglect to mention the limitless number of hearts out there? You could spend an hour or so just trying to get full health if you had to. This game just goes on and on and despite some lulls remains fairly entertaining throughout. To those of you out there who HAVE to get everything, I salute you and good luck finding those last few isotopes.
Dr. Muto is the most pleasantly "bent" thing Iíve seen since those Internet pictures of R2 and 3PO. If you arenít partially around the bend yet this could drive you there, but what a ride. It is more than mildly mature (for those of you who didnít figure that out) so the teen rating is a little low in my opinion, but then again look at most PG-13 flicks any more. Not that I mind, mind you; however, this is a perfect example of a platform game that doesnít ultimately cater to an under 13 audience. Itís a pleasant move from the norm, and overall just a downright fun and funny experience.