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Mutant Mudds Review


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On 01/26/2012 at 12:19 PM by Nick DiMola

I think the 12-bit generation must've been one of the best.
RECOMMENDATION:

For everyone.

Faux retro games are all the rage these days. Capturing the look, sounds, and feeling of the gaming days of yore has proved to be a successful formula for most of the companies that have tried it. Renegade Kid has given the subgenre a shot with their latest title, Mutant Mudds, to great success. Instead of modeling itself after the most popular NES games, it creates its own identity that merges ideas from all past generations and systems – even the Virtual Boy. This mash up of ideas comes together in a spectacular way, making it one of the best titles available today on the 3DS.

Mutant Mudds doesn't bog the player down with a bunch of needless story and tutorials, it tosses you into the action and wishes you the best. Upon hitting the first level, you'll receive a subtle explanation of the game's controls via sign posts in the background. You'll learn you can jump, shoot forward, and activate a hover pack, each with the push of a button. Your only other ability is activated via special panels on the floor – these allow you to jump into either the background or the foreground in order to progress (more on that later).

The levels are equally simple to understand, with a clear forward moving flow no matter which plane you're on at any given time. Like the retro games it's modeled after, Mutant Mudds is all about mindful progression. Each and every action you take must be considered before executing; doing so without consideration is likely to result in a loss of one of your three hearts, or death.

What really distinguishes Mutant Mudds from its retro brethren is the consistency and precision of its controls. Moving forward won't build momentum, thus you can stop on a dime and won't ever slide. Many of the levels require you to hover and land on the very edge of a platform to avoid death. Without tight controls, this would be impossible. Executing at this level of precision feels great and the controls never get in the way of your objective – if you fail, it's because you miscalculated.

2D games with a lack of momentum often feel stiff, but Mutant Mudds manages to maintain a smooth feel throughout. Levels featuring ice do provide an opportunity to experience the gameplay with momentum, providing an entirely different degree of challenge that's redeeming to conquer.

The enemies are the icing on the cake, as they provide unique impediments, especially at the end of the game. In certain instances you'll need to hover off the ledge, risking death, to kill an enemy in order to progress. Other times you'll find yourself needing to activate your hover at an exact moment to make your way to a new ledge, all while simultaneously blasting an enemy that's shooting at you. The ability to analyze and master the timing and flow of every given level is what makes Mutant Mudds so much fun to play through.

While subtle, timing is of the utmost importance and the true key to success. As you make your way to the Water Sprite, which marks the end of a level, you'll encounter 100 Golden Diamonds strewn about. While collecting objects can often be grating in a platformer, it's purposefully served here. Not only do they provide yet another challenge - often placing you in precarious positions - they also unlock a variety of power-ups. With 2000 in the game, players will need to collect a total of 1600 to unlock all of the power-ups, which include increased fire rate, longer hover interval, and a super high jump.

Though the power-ups are generally helpful in navigating the levels, reducing some of the challenge, they're never necessary to progress. However, there are a total of 20 hidden levels in the game, many of which require players to use their power-ups to reach. Forcing Max through a challenging obstacle course, these Virtual Boy and Gameboy themed levels will sometimes even require the use of said power-ups. These extremely challenging levels are one of the best parts of Mutant Mudds, as they require the highest degree of mastery. There's one problem though – while the idea of reaching the hidden levels is interesting, the process is inherently flawed.

The power-up system limits players to equipping only one at a time. During your first romp through the game, you'll likely see many entrances to hidden levels that you can't get to. However, by the time you get the opportunity to go back to the level with the proper power-up, you'll likely have forgotten what power-up it was that you need to get in there. As a result you'll often have to go through a standard level up to three times just to get into the hidden level.

While sometimes frustrating, this is a trivial complaint. Mutant Mudds is a fantastically designed game that provides tons of interesting content that's challenging from beginning to end. Furthermore, the graphical design takes amazing use of stereoscopic 3D, and the retro-inspired music is catchy and memorable. Mutant Mudds is not only the best games on the eShop, but it's one of the best reasons to own a 3DS right now.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Matt McLennan Staff Alumnus

01/27/2012 at 08:20 PM

Renegade Kid, along with Wayforward and Nintendo, has shown that this time the eShop means business. Ho-Ly crap, I LOVE this game. As a huge fan of retro titles (16-bit forever), Renegade Kid has made a fantastic eShop game. With Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, VVVVVV and this, my 3DS love is getting higher.

Lackluster launch, what is that?

Nick DiMola Director

01/28/2012 at 09:13 PM

So I just beat this 100%. It was pretty damn tough, but the bonus you get for it is pretty rockin'. I'm incentivized to go back through the whole thing again - but not until I finish Pushmo. Plus Sakura Samurai is dropping this week, so that'll slow me down a bit too.

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