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Mutant Mudds Review

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Developer: Renegade Kid Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: January 26, 2012 Available On: 3DS

When Nintendo launched the eShop for the 3DS last summer, I was pretty skeptical about the results – nonetheless, I have been surprised by the number of quality downloadable titles available on the platform. In addition to a respectable library of Virtual Console games, DsiWare, and a handful of 3D-enhanced NES games, there were a few 3DS-exclusive titles that stood out to me – none more than Renegade Kid’s Mutant Mudds.

Mutant Mudds - logo

Mutant Mudds is actually one of the most fundamentally simplistic side-scrolling platformers I have ever played, to the point that it seems to be the theme of the game: there is not much of a story to talk about, no princesses to save or villains to pursue. The main character, Max, rushes out the door of his Grannie’s house upon hearing the news of an invasion of “mudds”, armed with his trusty blaster and jetpack. That’s all there is to it; from the story to the gameplay, the visual style to the background music, Mutant Mudds is decidedly a step backward – but refreshingly so, in a way that is completely accessible, satisfies your nostalgic side, and provides a decently punishing challenge.

Mutant Mudds - depth
It also uses the 3D effect very well

There are 16 levels in Mutant Mudds; each stage challenges you to reach the end while also tracking down all 100 collectible gems, blasting or avoiding all the enemies and obstacles thrown at you along the way. The traditional platforming gameplay has an interesting little gimmick; Max can jump back and forth between the background and foreground in certain areas using orange jump pads. With the 3D effect of the 3DS, it is actually much easier to navigate each level – there were even a few platforms in tricky spots that I couldn’t see with the 3D turned off.

As I mentioned before, Max has a jetpack – in addition to his rather wimpy jump, the jetpack can be used to temporarily hover from platform to platform. This jetpack actually requires a little bit of mastery in order to use effectively – some levels throw platforms at you that disappear and re-appear in timed intervals, and landing on them requires you to actively pay attention to your use of the jetpack. There are actually upgrades that can be purchased at Grannie’s Shop once you collect 800, 1200, and 1600 gems, including a “charge shot” and an improved jetpack. Most of these upgrades are actually more useful for finding all the hidden stages in each level – the charge shot in Mutant Mudds is sadly nothing like the ones that Samus is known for.

Mutant Mudds - blaster
Max’s blaster is effective but hardly intimidating

All of these details aside, what makes Mutant Mudds really interesting? I’d say my top picks would be a tie between the decidedly-retro visual style/soundtrack, and the generally addictive nature of the game based around its punishing (and equally-retro) difficulty.

In terms of presentation, the graphics are not entirely “8-bit”, but the art style in this title was clearly designed to reflect the classic platformers of the 8- and 16-bit generations. From the colorful sprites to the level designs, clearly based around four traditional platforming themes – grassy, icy, volcanos and mountains – Mutant Mudds should be very satisfying for anyone looking for a retro kick. If that doesn’t do it for you, the soundtrack definitely will: this may very well be the very best chiptune stuff I’ve ever heard, definitely in recent memory. It screams “NES” more than most actual NES games.

Finally, Mutant Mudds is reminiscent of classic platformers in the sense that it doesn’t hesitate to kick your ass, and relentlessly so. It even seems to be designed in some parts to kill you just as you’re naturally moving through the stages. Much like in Mega Man games, some of the enemy patterns and obstacles often seem to sync up with your movements, making you die time and time again, fighting to hold back the clever curse words you’d like to scream at Max and his stupid jetpack. On the other hand, I was always quick to jump right back into each stage, sometimes retrying them to the point that getting through certain areas was more or less muscle memory, not so much active playing.

Mutant Mudds - ice stage
Nothing sucks harder than a tricky ice stage

Overall, Mutant Mudds isn’t going to turn any heads in the way that the typical video game is “supposed to”. Its core design is the opposite of “innovative”, yet it manages to be nearly as interesting to play and definitely more satisfying in many regards than some of the most “innovative” games out there. If anything, Mutant Mudds makes a statement about having a fundamentally solid game design – proving you don’t necessarily have to be clever in this industry, so long as your game is actually fun to play. Finally, though it isn’t on the same level as “indie games”, Mutant Mudds also doesn’t shamelessly rely on its old-school influences in some pointlessly esoteric, “deep” or artistic attempt to prove that it can stand alongside any “AAA” title in the 3DS library. Again, that’s just the benefit of great gameplay.

Despite being somewhat short – a skilled player could complete all 16 stages in a few hours – collecting every gem and finding every hidden stage in Mutant Mudds is a much greater challenge, and one that any self-proclaimed fan of “retro games” with a 3DS should immediately tackle. The game originally launched near the end of January, but 3DS owners can now download a trial version of the game on the eShop before investing in the full game – so there’s no reason not to give it a shot.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 8.5 out of 10
Written by Cliff Bakehorn Write a User Review