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MIA - Mutant League

Who wouldn't like a classic game of kill the carrier?

Many of you may still be filled with turkey and stuffing, and even though it’s a holiday weekend it’s still a Friday and you know what that means.  That’s right; it’s time for another explosive installment of Missing in Action!

For all of those unfamiliar with with MIA, let me explain how it works.  MIA is a bi-weekly column where we pick out a game or franchise of old, dust it off and present it for a possible current generation entry.

To qualify for the MIA treatment the game or franchise cannot have appeared on any of the current generation consoles, nor can a new title be currently in development, though unconfirmed rumors, speculation and hearsay are certainly permissible.  Also the title or franchise must be well served by a current generation entry.  Superman 64 will not be making an appearance.

This week I present for your consideration, Mutant League!

This may be hard to fathom for most of you, but there once was a time when the market was rife with quality non-licensed sport games.  We call this magical period of time the 90s.  While games like Madden Football and the NHL series were certainly popular, there were plenty of other offerings in the genre that provided an ‘alternative’ style of play.  One of the standout instances of this would be Mutant League Football and Hockey.

Mutant League Football was the first to hit the streets on the Sega Genesis in the fall of 1993.  Developed by Electronic Arts, MLF made use of the Madden 93 game engine and as a result was a mechanically sound football experience.  But let’s be honest, those of use that remember and love the mutant league games didn’t play it because it was mechanically sound, we played it because we loved beating the crap out of each other.  If anything, the good mechanics were icing on a cheekily violent, mutant cake.

Taking place in a post apocalyptic future where ‘normal’ humans have all but gone extinct, MLF pits teams comprised of five different races against each other for league dominance.  These races include aliens, skeletons, robots, trolls and superhumans.

While it is possible to loss a player to injury in a traditional football game, Mutant League upped the ante by making it possible for players to be outright killed.  Character death is actually quite common on the Mutant League gridiron.  Players can call a “Nasty Audible” that allows for a few different options, one of them calling for the death of the opposing quarterback.  The field itself is littered with deadly hazards including land mines and fire pits. 

While it is perfectly normal for murder to occur on the field, it isn’t quite legal.  Murdering another player will usually result in a five to ten yard penalty.  But don’t worry, in keeping with sports tradition, corruption is everywhere.  You can always bribe the ref to call a penalty on the other team.  And if you just plain don’t like the ref?  Well, he can be killed to, just try to make it look like an accident.

The success of MLF resulted in a gift to the gaming community a year later that took the form of Mutant League Hockey.  MLH took most of its cues from its excellent predecessor, but hockey is fundamentally a different sport and as such there were some fantastic additions made to showcase its deadly fun.

In the NHL it isn’t uncommon for fans to throw crap onto the ice, whether it’s a ball cap after a hat trick, beer cups after a particularly crappy game or squid if it’s playoff time in Detroit.  MLH takes this aspect of fan interaction and runs with it, having the fans throw weapons and power-ups onto the ice during games.  It’s always nice to get an ax when you least expect it.

If you were to ask hockey fans what their favorite part of the sport was, there would certainly be a small group that would heartily answer with fighting.  Fighting is an integral part of hockey where players will police each other.  After all, you’re less likely to take a cheap shot if you’re likely to get punched in the nose for it.  Again, MLH takes this integral part of the sport and spotlights it in the form of a mini game.

When two players get engaged in a fight, the action stops and we focus on the two players.  The goal is, of course, to knock out the other player.  While both players are sent to the penalty box for fighting the loser has to serve an additional penalty for…well…losing.  Seriously, man up.

The popularity of these games spawned an animated show that followed Bones Jackson (a spoof on Bo Jackson, naturally) and his quest to find out what happened to his father by, you know, playing Mutant League sports.  A Mutant League Basketball game was in the works, but was cancelled before it was completed for unknown reasons.

Since the release of these games in 93 and 94 there hasn’t been any additional entries in the series.  And with the football and hockey genres in a near monopoly, I say the time is ripe for the Mutant League to end its 17 year lockout and begin play again.

It is the opinion of this writer that Mutant League belongs in glorious 2D.  This is a series that deserves to be highly stylized and a more realistic polygon based presentation would likely take away from what the game is supposed to be – reckless, bloody fun.  This isn’t a series that should be rated M for Mature – the graphical presentation should be fun, not horrifying.  2D sprites or 2 ½ D polygons with cell shading would convey much more in the terms of animation.  Sure the game includes murder, but it’s a more family friendly kind of killing.

Keeping the game simplistic is key.  One of the main detractors for new players getting into sports games is the complexity of calling plays and executing them through the control of multiple characters.  This is a daunting task for any gamer, especially one that is new to the genre or gaming in general.  Mutant League should be accessible, but still feature ‘hardcore’ modes that would rely much more on strategy and skill.

Playing Mutant League was at its most fun when it was shared with friends.  Multiplayer is a must for these games and head to head and league play should be included in any future release.  Other standard sports modes such as franchise and create a player could be modified to fit the Mutant League spirit.  Creating custom mutants, robots and aliens to play for your team could be fun in its own right.  Now introducing, the TEST TUBE TROUNCERS!

Whether we were to include these fantastic features or not, these different games shouldn’t be packaged separately.  There is no reason why we couldn’t just have a Mutant League game that included both Football and Hockey – perhaps even basketball and baseball as well – in one glorious package.  Imagine creating a team and playing them through different sports.  This would actually keep in line with the animated series as well.

So there you have it.  Whether you play sports games or not, you have to admit that a modern day Mutant League would be ridiculous fun and that the gaming community and more specifically the sports game genre needs this to happen.

Share your thoughts on this fantastic series and how it could be updated by sounding off in the comments section below!


 

Comments

Stanton Daries Staff Alumnus

11/25/2011 at 11:36 PM

Completely agree this series needs to be brought back. Was a great time. Anyone interested in something a little close to this should check out Blood Bowl.

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