Review: Mutant Mudds

Mutant Mudds received a fair amount of acclaim when it hit the 3DS eShop earlier this year, and now it’s available on PC from GOG for $8 (for about a week, then it’s $10). Thanks to the praise it recieved, I’ve been looking forward to finally checking it out. While it’s the same game, playing platformers with a larger console-style pad and display is always preferable if given the option.

Thankfully, the game supports the 360 pad, and it works great. Playing a few levels with the keyboard setup quickly proves it functional only in the sense that whatever action you wanted done would be done, but without the razor-sharp precision that a platformer demands. The key gimmick in MM is the ability to play in either the background, foreground, or mid-ground. While it can be easy to confuse where you are in relation to enemies, there are three environmental variants to help separate them: a foggy haze in the background, more detail and no fog in the mid-ground, and no fog and tons of detail with a zoomed-in view in the foreground. It’s a scheme likely implemented to take advantage of the 3DS hardware, but translates nicely to the PC version.

For the most part, the setup works and you can easily tell what plane you are in relation to your opponent. Sometimes, though, it’s impossible due to either path-blocking obstacles, or an enemy appearing with a super-pixelated look; you might assume it’s in the foreground, only to find out that it’s in the same mid-ground as you. Unlike many retro-styled games, there are no checkpoints, so you have to restart each stage from the beginning. While doing this for the sake of challenge is understanble, it really makes the game far more frustrating than it would otherwise be. Thankfully, though, you’ve got an unlimited supply of lives to work with. The game still winds up being a lot of trial and error, but at least it seems humanly possible to beat due to the few aids you’re given.

Beyond the lives, you’ve got your handy jetpack. While double jumping, you’re able to hover for a split second – giving you either the perfect landing on a disappearing platform, or the perfect descent into the lava beneath it if you’re off by the slightest amount. For offense, you’ve got your water gun – no head jumping here. It’s got a decent range and when combined with the jetpack, can give you some free hits at enemies who are unable to reach you. While having the ability to upgrade would be preferable, having a longer-range weapon helps create a blend of action and platforming. It’s one of the few games you could classify as an action-platformer without a pace that gets too hectic.

Visually, Mutant Mudds accurately replicates the 8-ish bit style it’s going for. It’s reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in the sense that there’s more color shading than in 8-bit games, but without the detail from the 16-bit days. That also includes things like good animation being absent, but that works in the game’s favor since it wouldn’t do much good in the background segments, making it hard to see exactly where you needed to be. The bold black outlines on Max alongside the simplistic animation helps indicate where you are in relation to things, and makes going through the game less frustrating than it would be if the graphics were overly elaborate. While the graphics are overall impressive, the music is a huge letdown. It’s a bunch of beeps and boops arranged into songs like you’d expect from one of these retro-styled games, but without being catchy, they get old really quickly. This is sadly a game you’ll probably want to play with the sound turned down.

Closing Comments:

Mutant Mudds is a well-executed title that falls short in some crucial areas. Given the relatively low price, Mutant Mudds is worth owning if you’re seeking a tough platformer with some twists to it. Unfortunately, some may find its high difficulty more frustrating than fun. The old-school graphics work well, with the bold outlines making the far-off gameplay easier to make out, but the music and depth issues often suck enjoyment out of an otherwise breezy experience.

Version Reviewed: PC