Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Renegade Kid
Platform: 3DS, Wii U
Release Date: March 17th, 2016
ESRB: E for Everyone
This review is based on the 3DS version of the game
In 2012, a new game headed to the Nintendo 3DS eShop had caught my eye. I had low expectations at the time, though. Before playing Mutant Mudds, I went into the experience expecting to be underwhelmed. How many shades of mediocrity marketed to the retro-gaming crowd does it take until someone, somewhere finally manages to get it right?
I had no idea that Renegade Kid actually would manage to have exactly what I look for in games from the genre, and that I“d go on to smash the 3DS eShop version, its twenty added levels that were once exclusive to PC, and even the
when it was re-released as Mutant Mudds Deluxe to additional platforms. I know our review didn“t come away feeling as strongly as I did, back then. But I think whether your opinions of the original are positive or middling, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge offers a look at how both presentation on the outside, and structure on the inside, has evolved over four years“ time.
If you managed to gather everything in the first game, you already know where this one starts. Max sets off alone to investigate a large meteor in a far-off region. If you“re going into Super Challenge hoping for some clues that point towards even more adventures, what happens will absolutely meet your expectations... and maybe even exceed them, if you notice a clever allusion or two that come together towards the end.
Much like it picks up exactly where the first game left off with its story, that“s also true for its level design. The learning curve present in Max“s first adventure is completely gone -- the controls are easy to learn, and it“s only the levels themselves that get more complex, so I wouldn“t say playing the original is absolutely required. Both games can stand on their own, and offer fundamentally different things from each other -- like the nuances between the original Super Mario Bros. and the numbered sequel that didn“t leave Japan until it came over here as â€œThe Lost Levelsâ€�, years later.
Aesthetic evolution will be apparent right away. The Lost Levels didn“t change the original“s graphics much at all, but that“s absolutely not the case here. The hub world is sliced apart thematically to show off the types of levels you“ll be having a go at, if you choose to enter. If you look closely enough, you“ll even see that every third level is colored a little differently, indicating that it“s going to be like a Ghost Level first seen in Deluxe. Environments feel much more cohesive and connected.
In addition to aesthetic additions, the game features a new Jukebox room where you can listen to 41 tracks you find hidden in the game“s levels. Plenty of the music you hear is the same as before, but there are handfuls of new tracks. If you liked Troupe Gammage“s music from the first Mudds, his new stuff will also delight. Last but not least, the coolest addition (in my opinion) is that there are twenty secret characters to find, if playing as Max isn“t your thing.
Evidence of this game taking steps to make itself memorable, despite not â€œreinventing the wheelâ€� of Mutant Mudds gameplay, starts at the aesthetic level and ends at the kinds of characters you can play as. Each is expertly crafted and deviously hidden. These characters don't alter how the game is played in any way. But including a character from outside of Renegade Kid“s games,
, shows that the team wants to make collecting these characters absolutely worth the effort.
I feel like there“s one more addition I“m forgetting! Oh right -- a death counter. It“s definitely useful, because with this game“s level design, you“re going to die so much that you“d lose count otherwise. I died 1030 times while playing the game start to finish. But that death counter -- viewable before you even access your save file, has nine digits... indicating that someone, somewhere may theoretically die 999,999,999 times. When you look into the abyss of the Game Over screen, as it prompts you to Retry or Quit while you listen to the familiar tune from the original Mutant Mudds... does it stare back at you? All right...I“ll concede that as much as I want to paint Renegade Kid as these maniacal, evil level designers who will watch players die over and over again for fun... as challenging as these levels are, they“re both inventive and fair. Most of the time.
To elaborate on â€œinventiveâ€�, briefly: There are three power-ups in both Mudds games. While the original required you to collect Golden Diamonds in order to unlock these power-ups, all three are available to Max pretty much right from the start in Super Challenge. Some of the levels take strategic advantage of choosing one power-up over another. Attempting levels with just the Vertical Boost at your disposal is way different than going about them with the Extended Hover. Plenty of the Secret Lands will have you only be able to access them with the Power-Shot, so you can“t use the longer or higher jumps as crutches to accomplish your mission. Adds some replay value, for sure!
But the thing that stood out to me the most about the level design in Super Challenge is how the levels themselves seemed as cohesive and connected as the artistry that houses them. Longtime Mudds fans know full well about the hammers that can sometimes crash down on Max after a brief waiting period. One of the Secret Lands has a design objective that“s carried out specifically through the use of these hammers. The way they crash down...and how you“ll learn to avoid them... is by recognizing the familiar knocking rhythm that goes along with the old folk song â€œMatch in the Gas Tank, Boom Boom.â€� Both how objects and enemies are placed, as well as specific ways to avoid them, appeal to players“ visual and auditory senses. The small touches put into Super Challenge“s inner-workings are just as impressive as the polish on the outside. For the most part, I think the objective of remaining fair but challenging is met.
There are occasional portions, however, when I can“t help but question whether a design choice was fair or not. In one of the levels, for example: spikes were placed at both edges of a platform, punishing players whose instinct is to jump after a running start with immediate death as soon as one pixel of Max“s foot touches the edge. If you do make the jump... there are easily five more cleverly arranged platforms of the same design, just begging you to collect the Golden Diamonds around them. They begged me too...then I died 100 times in one sitting. In the twenty minutes it took for me to get from the Checkpoint to the end of that level, my death count went from 852 to 952. So there“s that.
There are several instances, I think, where obstacles end up being cheaper than intended, exposing some flaws. I“m also kind of disappointed that mappable controls still haven“t been added. I“m very much an â€œA to jump, B to shootâ€� kind of guy; Mudds has always made you jump with both A & B, then shoot with Y. Giving me the freedom to choose my own controls would have sponged some of my deaths.
The other things that vexed me were two of the game“s five bosses. While all of them have clever designs and executions, and many of them are more puzzle-platforming oriented than combat-based, I“d say the two that are combat-based will add a heaping handful to your death counter. I don“t think the bosses themselves are designed unfairly; it's just that some of the pain associated with confronting them could have been alleviated by having them spit up an extra heart for Max to grab when he hits them. Contemporaries like Shovel Knight, Cave Story, or Bloo Kid 2 offer similar challenges, but more life/hearts to pull them off without frustration.
Mutant Mudds Super Challenge brings new level design, bosses, music, aesthetics, and playable characters to the table. Despite sometimes retreading on familiar things, and not offering any new power-ups or ways to utilize Max himself, this is a game that really does its absolute best to stand apart from the one that came before it. With loyalty discounts for owning the first game, and cross-buy options available, its price certainly shouldn“t hurt either. While this is hardly a challenge suited for everyone, it should absolutely delight fans of the first game... and give those who maybe weren“t won over by it a reason to try -- and die -- again.
+ Environments and visuals feel invigorated and refreshing, especially in comparison to the first Mutant Mudds.
+ Levels themselves, while challenging, offer plenty of unique design choices that help make the experience even more memorable
+ There are numerous things to collect. Golden Diamonds and music tracks are in every level of the game, and there are even secret characters to find.
- Some of the game's more challenging segments may come off a little cheaper than intended. Nothing is impossible, but there are certainly some vexing moments.
- Some combat-focused bosses, while unique in their own ways, are perhaps a little too challenging without some way to restore hearts.
Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
If designing a challenging, but fair action game was ever the key to thwarting an alien invasion, Renegade Kid would be the ones for the job.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the publisher