A couple of years ago, when Sony was still holding annual fan events, we learned of an initiative they called the “China Hero Project”. It was a program to help game developers in China get access to resources to help them publish their games on the platform. I remember trying out Lost Soul Aside and Boundry. While Anno: Mutationem was not yet announced, it would soon be a very promising project. Well, it’s finally here, and it’s made a fairly strong statement for their developer ThinkingStars. Utilizing a very unique artstlye, crafting a gorgoeus cyberpunk world, and telling a somewhat conventional story, we are dropped into a world post apocalypses. While there were some bumps in the road, they were not enough for me to try and keep playing as much as I can.
Visually the game is stunning in an old school meets new school kind of way. The starting menu shows off the main protagonist surrounded by the neon splendor you can only really get from the cyberpunk genre. The character models look like large sprites with a lot of detail, while the rest of the world uses higher definition 3D assets for the environments and vehicles. The game’s protagonist, Ann, moves in both a 2D and 3D plane, and moves almost flawlessly between the two. While exploring non-combat areas you’ll move around in both the x and y axis, while combat restricts it to one side. Blending the pieces of the world together this way is very satisfying when trying to explore. I would genuinely love to learn how they created the sprite style they use because it is incredibly unique looking.
The cityscapes are overflowing with details that add to the world building. I was able to get a pretty good grasp of what was going on in the world just from listening to conversations by NPCs, reading newspaper clips, and by meeting the dozens of different kinds of denizens of the world. Synth heavy electronica music pumps throughout and the game is also filled with some voice acted segments. While I found the voice acting to be fitting enough, there are some lines that are delivered rather flatly. Ann is the typical cool person with amnesia type but she never sounds overly cold, just a bit monotone. Her partner Ayane, however, can range from just right to overbearing. Unfortunately this is also where some of the bumps are that I mentioned earlier. The issues you encounter with the presentation are things that I think could have been very easily fixed with a more time and editing. Sadly there are times when the captions don’t match the spoken words.
As you progress the story, you will also engage in platforming and combat. The combat strikes a good balance of simplicity and fun. A light attack, heavy attack, projectile, block, and dodge are all you have and all you really need. There is a bit of weapon variety, mostly just upgrades that increase the weapon’s stats. From soldiers and street thugs, to mechs and mutations, Ann fights a wide cavalcade of threats. The boss battles are especially fun and some have specific challenges related to parts of the story. One of the weaknesses sadly rears its head here. For the bigger baddies, you can generally stand right next to them and wail on them in general safety.
The overall difficulty is not terribly hard either. Once I learned I could get close to most of the bosses and avoid most of their attacks it did undermine the challenge somewhat. This didn’t apply every time but it did for most of the bosses. My only other complaint about combat is that you cannot dodge out of attacks and must stand still to use items. I am ok with having to commit to an attack, but standing still can get you killed. Overall though, those are kind of minor nitpicks. The games enemy variety and set pieces are great however so at least you will not be bored. The puzzles are also fairly easy to solve overall which is sad considering that the possibility for cool puzzles in this setting are nearly endless.
With only a few minor gripes overall, Anno: Mutationem is an enjoyable experience overall all. With its cool art direction, great use of cyberpunk setting, and a compelling if not choppy narrative, this game is definitely worth picking up. I would love to maybe see a sequel or similar title from ThinkingStars.
Anno: Mutationem Review
Mostly Smooth Chrome
Anno: Mutationem is a fun game with a few flaws. The fantastic presentation, enjoyable combat and interesting but off paced adventure is worth your time.