February 26, 2012
Developed by Renegade Kid (known for their work on the Nintendo DS titles Dementium: The Ward and Moon), Mutant Mudds mixes old-school Mega Man style platforming with a plane switching effect similar to the Virtual Boy title Virtual Boy Wario Land in the sense that the main character Max can jump between three different planes via switches found throughout each level. The 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS comes into play as each plane is situated at a certain depth in the screen as if you were looking into a diorama. It’s a little odd at first to have the graphics right up in your face, especially when Max is in the front-most level, but it does make telling each of them apart much, much easier than if you were playing solely in 2D.
Since Mutant Mudds models itself after old-school platformers, the story and gameplay are expectantly simplistic. The game starts with a cheesy retro-style series of cutscenes where a boy and his grandmother are watching a news report about a group of alien mutant mud creatures invading the earth and cuts right into the game’s first level. True to its roots, each level is quite simple in its approach as the main goal is to reach the end of the level and collect the 100 gems strewn throughout the level without getting hit three times by the enemies.
Of course, being a platformer means the player must have some sort of way to defeat and evade the enemies to which Mutant Mudds is no exception. The main character, Max, has the ability to shoot bubbles out of his bubble blaster and hover using his water pack Super Mario Sunshine-style momentarily in the air. After collecting enough gems Max’s abilities can be upgraded, such as the ability to shoot bubbles at a faster pace or hover longer in the air. These abilities become important after the first few stages if players want to play through the game’s hidden “special” stages that are placed off the beaten path. Themed after the graphics of the original Game Boy and Virtual Boy respectively right down the backgrounds and color scheme, these are devoid of gems but feature a more heightened difficulty with death traps specifically set to ensnare the player if they don’t keep their eye on the stage.
The graphics and music are easily the highlights of the game. The graphics feature old-school 2D sprite work that doesn’t have any of the ghosting issues that plagued VVVVVV and help to differentiate the various planes Max can travel on from one another. The music also has a old-school bent with chiptune-inspired tracks that don’t feel grating on the ear. Both combined together give the game an extremely unique look and makes them stand out among the various other 3DSWare titles currently on the market.
One of the problems with Mutant Mudds, however, is that the game feels exceptionally unbalanced at times, especially in the latter half of the game. While it’s expected that the special stages are more difficult than normal, some of the required stages featured near the end of the game are filled with enemies that are hard to bypass and stage design that tries its best to kill the player with cheap shots such as instant-kill spikes that can only be seen once the player gets into their view --- which is usually when they are falling right into them. Granted, each stage only takes 2-3 minutes to complete on average, but having to start all over again because of the developers instead of your own mistake is disheartening to say the least.
There’s also an issue with the game’s variety. After progressing into the second wave of stages the player will have unlocked all three of the power-ups if they had been diligently collecting the gems strewn throughout Mutant Mudds’s stages. Tie this into the fact that the shooting mechanism stays the same throughout the game and that the 20 odd levels will only take most veteran gamers 5-6 hours to complete makes for a harder sell considering this game retails for more than most of Nintendo’s recent 3DSWare titles.
That said, if you can stomach the price point Mutant Mudds is an excellent 3DSWare title to add to your collection especially if you are a retro gamer who loved the platforming genre back in the day. Some of the stages are unbalanced for sure, but the vast majority hit that sweet spot of making the player feel accomplished once they succeed. While we’d like to see more to the game in a future sequel, this iteration of Mutant Mudds is still a great value with all things considered. If you can look past it’s flaws you’ll find another hidden gem in Nintendo’s 3DSWare offering.