Mutant Mudds Review
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On 09/13/2012 at 09:42 PM by Julian Titus
Throw Mario, Mega Man, Firebrand, and Samus into a blender and...
For anyone looking for a finely crafted and challenging retro-inspired platform game.
It’s rare that I can use the word “charming” to describe a game, and rarer still when I play a game that puts a steady smile on my face. Somehow in the chase for realistic polygon models, normal mapping, and Euphoria physics engines we lost a little bit of that magic that got us into gaming in the first place. That’s where Mutant Mudds comes into the picture—a game that may play on my nostalgia for the 8- and 16-bit days of gaming, but does so with skill and style.
Mutant Mudds is a platformer in the purest sense of the word. Armed with a hover pack and water cannon, the task falls upon Max to fight the alien Mudds and find the Water Sprites to wash the taint of these mutant mudballs from the planet for good. Doing so will require precision platform jumping and timing as you negotiate the deviously designed levels in search of all 40 water Sprites.
Developer Renegade Kid bills Mutant Mudds as a “12-bit” game, and this is a very apt description. While the character sprites are very simple they are a little bit more advanced than what was seen in the 8 bit days, and the backgrounds are decidedly 16-bit in design, featuring impressive parallax scrolling and depth of field. The visuals are colorful and pop on the screen, and you’d have to be an extremely cynical player to not be grinning from ear to ear while playing this game. This hybrid straddles generational lines and creates something fresh and original, even if Mutant Mudds wears its influences prominently on its sleeve.
Yes, it’s very clear that Mutant Mudds owes much of its design sensibilities to those that came before it. You’ll find aspects of Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Castlevania, and even Metroid and Gargoyle’s Quest present, but the game feels in no way generic. Mutant Mudds uses the aforementioned parallax and depth of field to create not one but three levels to the play area. At certain points in each level you will be shifted to either the fore or background to move forward. This is also the key to plumbing each level to find all the “golden diamonds” (read: coins) as well as the secret exits. At times it can be difficult to separate what’s going on in your play field from the other dimensions of the level, but this is part of Mutant Mudds’ challenge and charm. Really, the only times I would encounter a problem was when I was in the extreme foreground and felt like I didn’t have enough of a viewpoint to avoid obstacles in my way.
Like those games of yesteryear, this title is all about timing, precision, and patience. The Mutant Mudds are less of a threat than they are stumbling blocks in your path. You have unlimited lives but can take only three hits before you die, and there are no health pick-ups or checkpoints in the levels. This results in many restarts, but I never felt like dying was a setback, nor did I feel annoyed at playing levels over and over. Each run through a level made me more proficient at the game, and making it through a stage unscathed and with all 100 golden diamonds was a very satisfying accomplishment. It was extremely rare that I would feel that a death was “cheap”—9 times out of 10 I knew that I just hadn’t been quick enough or didn’t look before I leapt. Knowing that I just needed to do a little bit better kept me playing, and I enjoyed every level, no matter how many times I had to retry.
If only there was a little bit more to Mutant Mudds. The game is relatively short, and it lacks any variety to the gameplay. You won’t find any challenging boss battles here, nor will you pick up any cool power ups or new moves to play with. Besides a couple upgrades to your gun or hover pack, Mutant Mudds gives you all the tools you need at the very start and then throws progressively more difficult levels that require mastery of those tools. What Renegade Kid has made is stellar, and the fact that I wanted more isn’t really a negative, but considering the obvious influences the game has I would have liked to have seen more depth to the mechanics. Fighting a boss across all three “planes” of a level could have been amazing.
Playing this game on my PC keyboard proved to be problematic for me. Beyond the struggles of coming up with a configuration that was comfortable, I was constantly wishing for a controller in my hand. I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem for hardcore PC gamers, but if you were weaned on consoles like I was, you may want to consider getting a controller for your computer. Mutant Mudds is also available on the Nintendo 3DS as an eShop title, and I feel like that would be the perfect way to enjoy this game, but be aware that the eShop version only has 40 of the 60 levels present in the PC edition at this time.
Mutant Mudds is a clever and delightful game that is sure to put a smile on the face of anyone that holds a special place in their hearts for the platforming games of the past. Clean, crisp graphics, catchy chiptunes, and pitch-perfect level design come together for a highly enjoyable romp. Renegade Kid has impressed me, and I look forward to what they have planned in the future.