On the outside, I Was an Atomic Mutant seems wildly successful at staying true to its subject matter. It has funny, great-looking menus, clever cinematics, an incredible original score, and lots of little details perfectly suited to its subject matter: 1950s giant monster movies. It's easy to become so charmed by the game's presentation (and the game's $20 price tag) that you start to forget that somewhere in this otherwise entertaining set of features there needs to be a good game. And, unfortunately, actual gameplay is I Was an Atomic Mutant's worst part.
The game features only four playable creatures, but they're a nice sampling of classic B-movie monsters. There's the requisite giant lizard, Reptomicus (possibly named after the Danish film industry's first and only Godzilla knockoff, Reptilicus); the She-Beast, an extremely angry woman who is at least 50 feet tall; the Invader from Dimension-X, an alien in a huge, bubble-domed robot suit who bears a striking resemblance to the aliens from The Simpsons; and The Brain From Beyond Infinity, an enormous flying brain with its three-story-tall eyeballs still intact. A full-length movie trailer introduces each monster. These are really well done combinations of stock footage and gameplay scenes, with some great dialogue and narration ("No bonds can contain this savage beauty with a primal lust for vengeance!") dubbed over the original soundtrack.
These trailers are indicative of the attention lavished on virtually every peripheral part of the game. For instance, you can choose to play entirely in realistic black and white. Once you're actually playing, the right mouse button switches to a cinematic camera mode, complete with the theater curtains at the top of the screen and a movie audience at the bottom. Even the loading screens feature cool fake poster art advertising the monsters' respective movies. The original soundtrack is a perfect complement to the atomic mutant theme. It's a rousing example of overheated 1950s bombast, featuring the musical instrument most emblematic of science gone mad, the mysterious theremin.
The in-game graphics are serviceable but not nearly as striking as the art direction in the menus, loading screens, and introductory cutscenes. The creatures themselves are detailed (the robotic Invader from Dimension-X looks especially good), but the environments are generally bland. There are a few neat details, however, such as the way your massive footfalls cause nearby pedestrians to bounce a few feet in the air.
I Was an Atomic Mutant has the structure of a classic arcade game. You pick one of four mutants and then smash your way through an endless series of increasingly difficult levels, shooting for a high score rather than a proper ending. Each level presents a city, small town, or military base that you must completely demolish in order to progress. It sounds good in theory, but in practice, there isn't enough skill involved in actually controlling your creature or enough variety in either the things you destroy or the types of enemies you face to keep the gameplay interesting for very long. It's the type of simple, repetitive game that's great for 10 minutes before it becomes a boring routine. The game doesn't give you the kind of destructive options available in other giant monster games, though for some bizarre reason, it does include an ability that turns tanks, planes, and fleeing pedestrians into purple bunnies and yellow ducks, so it can't be dismissed outright.
It's quirky little things like this that make it hard not to enjoy I Was an Atomic Mutant, at least a little. You really have to be strong to resist its charms. Unfortunately, if you are able to look past I Was an Atomic Mutant's great presentation, you'll realize that the game itself isn't that good. Even though I Was an Atomic Mutant isn't that great a game, in a perfect world, developer Canopy Games would at least be in charge of creating the menus, soundtracks, loading screens, and cutscenes for every game.