Over the past few years, the indie scene has brought the 2D platformer back to life. Super Meat Boy, Fez, and several other throwback games have definitely aided the revival, delivering challenge and gimmickry to keep the modern gamer invested in a dated concept. Renegade Kid’s Mutant Mudds is a bit of an oddball by today’s standards, however. The only gimmickry included is very light, and the worlds are so simply crafted that the challenge is medium at best. With that said though, there is something truly special about the entire experience as right from the start, you can tell that love has been injected into every pixel. What do I mean? Here is my review for Mutant Mudds.
Remember the days when your main objective in a video game was simply to make it to the end? Well, much like Mario, Kirby, and several other classics, Mutant Mudds is almost the same by those standards. Players take the role of a young, blonde protagonist by the name of Max who hears about an mud-tastic alien invasion on television. In just a few seconds time, Max goes from average kid to superhero and sets out with his trusty water gun to save the world from these dirty foes.
As you can tell, there isn’t a whole lot of narrative within Mutant Mudds. That’s honestly what makes the game so appealing, though. At no time does Mutant Mudds try to pull the player into some deep adventure or even attempt to get you to fall in love with the main character. This title let’s it’s 8-bit charms to all the talking, and that alone goes miles in making everything so enjoyable. Letting the player have enough room to use their imagination is what made each and every one of Nintendo’s main mascots a star, and due to the same execution used here, it’s a shame we didn’t see this title released 20 years ago as there is no doubt Max would be standing beside the greats.
When it comes to 2D platformers, you really can’t get more basic than Mutant Mudds’ main gameplay mechanics. Players traverse a good number of stages jumping from platform to platform, simply trying to make it to the end. Instead of coins, Max has to collect a set number of diamonds that are scattered about while avoiding dangerous obstacles such as enemies, spikes, and steaming hot lava pools. Max can pop a shot off at a foe with his water gun by hitting X or Y, and has a small jump that can be executed by tapping the A or B buttons. Yeah, it can’t get more simple, but there are a few tricks up this small hero’s sleeve that enhance the platforming stylings within greatly.
Max has a water pack equipped on his back that lets him hover for short distances. This can be done by just double tapping the jump button, and works well to cross longer gaps with greater ease. Nearly every stage is built for this mechanic, and the clever placement of platforms apply a nice layer of challenge without ever making an obstacle feel impossible. Some of the water pack’s usage comes down to perfect timing as well, as there are many areas where high platforms can switch on and off. Unless you hit a batch of spikes, you must then go back up and give it another try. It’s trial and error at it’s finest, and thankfully there is very little room for frustration due to the naturally low difficulty to the game itself.
Another nice mechanic included are pads found on the floor of stages, which can let max leap to and from the foreground and background. This doesn’t change any mechanics really as the effect is mainly a visual one, but it does make each level feel longer and more substantial due to all of the new diamonds to collect and muddy enemies to destroy. For those who may need more insight, think of Shantae, but instead of having the camera follow the protagonist (Max, in this case), it stays put and has the player either get a far-away view, or a more close-up perspective. This also boosts the challenge, as you must determine if close up platforms are a part of your current area, or if they are a piece of the foreground. It’s such a small idea, but was executed with so much polish that these shifting perspectives make the 3D worthy of keeping on while Max scuttles about, giving the whole experience a distinctive trait that sets it apart from all other titles on the platform.
For a 2D platformer on the eShop, Mutant Mudds is certainly worthy of returning to again and again as well. Hidden doors can be found in each stage that let the player visit the Game Boy inspired G-Land and the Virtual Boy inspired V-Land. Appearance isn’t all these areas take on either, as the challenge is much greater and even finding the doors will require heavy hunting and a few upgrades purchased from your beloved Grannie. Of course there are the diamonds, that literally demand to be required in order to get that short boost for your water pack and boosted techniques, but there are enough levels already to keep most going for hours at a time, making this under $10 title one of pure nostalgic value.
Much like everything within Mutant Mudds, the visuals are also very simplistic. Most backgrounds are just one color, and enemies were given just enough detail to be bursting at the seams with personality. Max himself is a very unique hero with his large bifocals and bouncy hair, and it’s hard to not enjoy watching him attempt to save this oddball little world from a muddy fate. If I could credit to anything within the graphical design though, it would have to be the 3D. Due to the sprites having a very solid and bold appearance, Max and every moving enemy within the game “pop” right out of the screen, which is enhanced even further with the shifting perspectives. As I mentioned, this is a game that you go into with that slider pushed all the way up, as the result is one of the most relaxing and retro-fan satisfying settings I have personally seen in years.
As far as the soundtrack goes, expect 8-16 bit chiptunes that will take you back to being tethered to a console with a 2 button controller in hand, humming along to songs that have just been introduced minutes before. Honestly, the music seen within creates a magical little atmosphere that could even rival the Kirby series for the amount of joy it adds to the game, tying together the themed environments and sprites into a perfect little package. The sound effects were done superbly as well, with Max’s jumps, shots, and general movement seeing a bit of attention to push along that classic feel.
Mutant Mudds doesn’t ever strive to blow the player away with exciting gameplay elements or fancy aesthetics, but that’s really the point of the entire experience. The game controls wonderfully and never becomes a chore, no matter how great the challenge is at hand. Yes, you will die. You will burn in lava and meet the spikes more than once. That doesn’t matter though, as Renegade Kid perfected nearly every element within Mudds by putting the focus on clean and polished gameplay and in my opinion, gave birth to a franchise that should have been introduced 20 years ago while still making it feel relevant by today’s demanding standards. Mutant Mudds is one of the finest gems on the eShop service at the moment, and one that all 3DS owners should put on their large glasses for to give an extra look.