Indie Game Watch: Mutant Mudds

I love Mutant Mudds: it’s my favorite eShop game.

It’s the kind of eShop game that got me excited to be over with class the day of release and rush home to download.  Then play for the next few hours, and into the future.   It looked retro, but felt as sharp as a modern-day release.
So what is Mutant Mudds? An 8-bit style platformer with bite.  It concerns a boy named Max fending off an invasion of mudd monsters.  An asteroid hits while Max and his grandma are watching TV, and now he’s off with his jet pack and water gun to fight monsters.

The game is the brainchild of developer Renegade Kid, a real up-and-comer.  Actually, prior to Mudds’ release, they were well-known for the DS game Moon and the Dementium series.  The game was made by a small team led by designer Jools Watsham, who made inroads on the game’s convoluted development.  Mutant Mudds went from a 3D platformer for DS called Maximillian and the Rise of the Mutant Muddsm, to a download DSi Ware game, both canceled.  Ultimately, the game made it through development to a January 2012 release on 3DS eShop.

Remember Virtual Boy Wario Land? That was a platformer whose hook was treasure-hungry Wario jumping from one plane of background to the next, to collect treasure and bash enemies in. It was the stand-out of the anemic Virtual Boy library.  Mutant Mudds feels like a spiritual successor to that 1995 title.  It’s gameplay coincides with that title, as Max uses jump pads in the environment to leap from plane to plane, collecting treasures and fighting tooth and nail to uncover secret rooms.

Mutant Mudds is perfect for the 3DS. It is a portable-sized adventure, and it makes great use of the stereo-3D effect. The 3D helps you judge distances between the layers you can leap towards, how high you are hovering above the round, and just how far that water shot is from a muddy enemy. You could play it without the 3D effect on, but that would be missing the point. The game feels inseperable from the 3D effect. It immerses you as much as it orients you to manage the tight platforming.

It’s a game of enormous value. At first blush, the game is made up of 20 levels, but the game gets far deeper under the surface. Each level has hidden levels within, and it’ll take some hunting to find them all.  And when you do, that’s where the real fun begins.  These hidden levels are stylized with color pallets based upon the Game Boy’s monochrome and the Virtual Boy’s red/black glare, but they’re also…hard as hell.

You’ll wring your hands and scream at your 3DS in rage as you struggle to get to each and every goal. I know I did. But it feels so good to navigate Maxwell, you’ll not want to give up.  And Mutant Mudds is not a short game: I got 100% in 14 hours. It’s myriad of levels and the challenges within will give you an eShop game with appropriate length.

What makes the Mutant Mudds flavor so distinct is how concise and compact it’s levels are. You’ll die over and over, learning to memorize the movements of the enemies, and how to precisely land on platforms that get increasingly smaller.  It’s a pick-up-and-play trial and error exam.

Where does the depth of Mutant Mudds extend to?  It’s a game of situations. Maxwell can hover, fire lasers, and jump. It’s up to you to figure out what ability is best suited to navigate the levels in as little time as possible.  As you progress, you unlock new items that enhance Max’s move pool (from his house’s attic, no less), including longer-range lasers, high jump shoes, and a boosted hover jet pack. These in turn give you more of the levels to explore, to uncover all of their trinkets that earn you 100%. Even more intricate is the fact that Maxwell can only chose one of these upgrades at a time, necessitating multiple visits. One secret exit may take a power shot, but another requires you to hover a great gap, so chose wisely.

The best bonuses come after you finish the game. You gain the ability to play as Maxwell’s grandma. She’s worth the run through because she’s a powerhouse.  And with her unchecked abilities, the game gained specialized DLC in the form of “Grandma Levels”.  Tipping the level count to a solid 60 strong, these levels require you play as Grandma to reach them, hidden in every level.  And in the spirit of tradition, these levels will test your mettle and might.  Your acknowledgement for triumphing over all levels are 20 shiny gold medals per stage.  They are the badges of your stamina and mettle.

I’m not the only person who feels Mutant Mudds is a gem of a game. Since it’s early-2012 release, many outlets have heaped praise upon Renegade Kid’s indie game:
Nintendo Life- Mutant Mudds offers up the best of both 8-bit and 16-bit worlds, all the while giving fans of the genre a classic 2D platformer. Mutant Mudds might very well be the best eShop game to date, and one no platformer fan should miss. 9/10

Destructoid- Mutant Mudds is platforming distilled to its essence. It cuts the fat in order to deliver a pure, satisfying experience. 9/10

IGN- Mutant Mudds is a fitting homage to the 8-bit era of gaming. It’s got lots of personality, and though its gameplay may be a bit too simplified, the clever, challenging levels still provide plenty of good times. 8.5/10

Nintendo Gamer- An exemplary platformer, and a treat to play with the 3D on. 88/100

Mutant Mudds has found life beyond the 3DS eShop. It’s also come out to non-3D platforms, including the Wii U. While this does destroy what made the game so special on 3DS, it means a much wider audience can partake in the precise, cutthroat platform action this game has to offer.  Mutant Mudds Deluxe brought in new remixed Ghost levels that made you rethink how you approach the game, as your gun here only temporarily eliminates enemies.

If you haven’t downloaded Mutant Mudds in the two years since its release, you should seriously consider it.  There’s so many ways to experiences it, and there’s talk of a sequel in the works.  Mutant Mudds is a lovingly concise game that encourages creative solutions to maddening problems.  It may not be for the feint of heart, but it has a great understanding of the classics, and the challenge involved, it’s easily worth your playtime.

Mutant Mudds, by Renegade Kid, is available on the 3DS eShop and iOS, and the Deluxe edition is available on Steam, Wii U eShop, PS3, and PS Vita.

Written by: Alex Ir Esq

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