Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Renegade Kid
Platform: 3DS eShop
Release Date: Out Now
There's no doubt that Nintendo's eShop service for the 3DS started out a bit slow, but over the holidays it has pumped out some great original content, starting with Pushmo and continuing on with Mighty Switch Force, VVVVVV, and Zen Pinball 3D. I'm happy to say that Renegade Kid's first endeavor on the eShop, Mutant Mudds, carries on the streak of great games. In what seems to be an all-but forgotten genre nowadays, the game features a young boy with glasses named Max as he fights against the titular Mutant Mudds in a brand new platformer that harkens back to the good ol' 8-bit days of the NES. So grab your super soaker and read on below to hear about one of the most interesting new original games this year so far.
Mutant Mudds hits the ground running from the first moments of the first level. With only the most simplistic of instructions (signboards that you tell you what a certain button does as you pass by), the game is almost a return to the old style of NES games that left players to their own devices as far as how the game is played. Fortunately, there isn't too much to the controls; mostly moving left or right, jumping (and hovering with Max's water-based jetpack), and shooting blobs of water at enemies. However, don't think that the simple controls are indicative of the game being easy- far from. In fact, Mutant Mudds is one of the most punishingly difficult games I've played in some time. I don't know if I'd rank it alongside the likes of Super Meat Boy, but again, it really does reflect the 8-bit days where games were genuinely challenging.
Much of the challenge comes with timed jumps and your ability to defeat the different breeds of "mutant Mudds," which can range from a standard floating Mudd to ones that shoot projectiles or even ones that carry a sword and shield. Each level is designed with these factors in mind, so you may come across a narrow corridor with a few Mudds to dispatch first, or you may have to make a jump to a small platform with a Mudd on it, so either you'll have to position yourself in a way that you'll have just enough room to land while still not touching the Mudd or you'll have to defeat it first. You'll also make use of a special platform in order to traverse between the foreground and the background as you make your way through each level. While these platforming conventions offer a great challenge for most, I actually started to grow a little tired of them a little more than halfway through the game.
For all of the interesting layouts in its levels though, Mutant Mudds feels like it's missing something. There are a few "power-ups" that you'll have access to after collecting a certain number of the many numerous medals scattered about each level and you'll need to go back and make use of all of the power-ups in order to access the game's secret levels, but it just doesn't seem like enough to really give the game enough variety. In fact, the game only has four or five main enemies or so, and a few lesser ones that are meant to serve as nothing more than obstacles. Once you learn each enemy's attack pattern, it slowly becomes monotonous in having to deal with them; there are only so many times I can jump over a sword and shield-armed Mudd, only to shoot it three times in the back to defeat it.
And while the different power-ups do have their use throughout levels, they simply don't change up the gameplay enough to really give it some pizazz; you're simply relegated to a jetpack that let's you reach greater heights, a jetpack that let's you hover longer, and a special water gun that breaks orange walls. That's it. So when there's only one way method of defeating enemies, it can get a little monotonous.
On the flipside, developer Renegade Kid put most of the emphasis on the actual platforming itself, thus many of the levels are built around Maxwell's jetpack and how skillfully you use it. It works well for the most part, but I wish there were some more ideas built in to each world. In contrast, VVVVVV's different levels introduced entirely new gameplay concepts that worked well and made the game continually interesting; it would have been nice to see a similar treatment used in this game.
Visually though, the game has a very nice and clean esthetic to it, with 8-bit-like pixelated graphics that really pop (especially when the screen's brightness is turned up to max). In addition, the transitions from foreground to middleground to background are handled very well, with no noise or degrading of the sprites themselves. Maxwell might appear a little small on the background, but he's still very much visible enough to see what's going on, and the fact that foreground objects and enemies often obscure what is going on in the background makes for an interesting challenge at times. Also, some of the music in the soundtrack is very good, reminding me of early Mega Man games and Capcom's other 8-bit hits.
Overall, Mutant Mudds still offers some of the best value out of all the eShop games despite some of its shortcomings. I clocked in at almost six hours when I was done with the game, so there's definitely a bit of content to play through. With 40 different levels to play through, challenging gameplay, and some rockin' 8-bit tunes, Mutant Mudds is still worth playing if you're a fan of platformers (especially if you loved the NES games of the late 80's and early 90's); it's just a shame that the game never evolves beyond basic platforming.
+ Interesting level designs; later levels are very challenging
+ Visuals have a very attractive 8-bit look to them.
+ Music is catchy
- Game feels a little repetitive in design in certain parts
- Not a whole lot of variety throughout the game
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
Mutant Mudds is an admirable attempt at a new IP by Renegade Kid even if it falls short a little. If you're looking for something new and challenging to download off the eShop, I'd recommend giving it a try.