Mutant Mudds: review

Unless the marketing team gives up hyperbole for Lent, you probably won’t read “Precise controls!” in flashy text on the back of a videogame box. In the case of Mutant Mudds, however, that would be a genuine selling point and one in which developer Renegade Kid should take pride. Ripped straight from the days when Nintendo consoles were off-grey boxes of nonsensical fun, this challenging 2D platformer is all about tricky jumps with devious enemy placement to test your mettle. Death is inevitable, but through it you will learn of hidden gameplay complexities and, if you’re feeling particularly introspective, something about yourself.

The story also takes a cue from classic sidescrollers– as in, it’s kind of non-existent. Young inventor Max (your hero and mine) sets out to battle an extraterrestrial invasion of Mutant Mudds with his hydro-powered machines, but context is replaced with pixelated lava worlds and floating platforms before long. Three simple hits and you’re down for the count, unless you fall in a pit or brush up again a spike; then it’s a one-shot affair.

Every razor-thin escape demands skilful button tapping, which would be frustrating if not for the total and complete player control. Discovering the most efficient way to dodge bomb-dropping aliens and perfecting the momentum for sliding on icy surfaces are rewarding reasons to replay the twenty short levels. Besides, when you’re dying left and right, you don’t really have a choice.

Waltzing along the foreground shows off the delightful sprite work.

Although the jet pack gives you a brief moment to mess with gravity and hover in the air, it doesn’t come off as a cheap lifesaver for when things get hairy. Instead, you’ll need to time every second of that weightless burst with a host of moving parts that wouldn’t at all mind killing you. Pelting monsters with the water cannon, whether on foot or in mid-air, adds another layer of coordination that requires a nimble and steady trigger finger. A few blind jumps sting with irritating unfairness, but level memorization and fast thinking amend most of the rough patches.

Quick wits also come in handy when bouncing between 2D planes via launch pads, which quite literally adds a few layers of depth to the game. This neat-looking feature feels tailor-made for the 3DS version of Mutant Mudds, but the loss of three-dimensional splendour is softened by crisp, spirited pixel art that looks both silly and fantastic with a fullscreen treatment.

Bonus levels hidden in every stage emulate classic eras of gaming through clever palette swaps, further harping on the retro motif. Of course, you’ll never make it to these secret doors without upgrading all your gadgets, and that requires purchasing new parts by gathering heaps of diamonds scattered all over the place.

Will this dangerous situation end in triumph or disaster? Only you and your dexterous fingers can finish the story!

Once you collect and clear everything– and that means everything— twenty PC-exclusive bonus levels challenge you to overcome spike-ridden domains of extra deadly difficulty. Along with new online leaderboards, this tips the scales in favour of PC over 3DS and gives the longevity serious legs. The fact that GOG.com offers a free copy of the spiffy chiptune soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.

The fellows at Renegade Kid know exactly what they’re doing. Their uncomplicated creation doesn’t expand beyond 60 concise levels, but using delicate tactics with the sharpest of controls can suck you in for hours. While anyone with a taste of classic platformers can enjoy the adventure, the obsessive, the patient, and the undefeatable will get the most out of Mutant Mudds; a game of skill through and through.

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Written by Stephen K

A lover of video games in general, Stephen will happily play just about any sort of game on just about any sort of system, especially if it's a platformer or an RPG. Except sports games. Sports games are boring.

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