If you’re my age then back in the late 80’s and the early 90’s you played games like Mega Man or Contra for a really long time. It wasn’t that the games were long. It’s just that they were insanely difficult. You would spend hour after hour and life after life trying to figure out the disappearing block sections of a Mega Man game and you liked it because it was all you had. You have fond memories of those games and the challenge that they posed. You also probably think that games have gotten easier as the years have gone by. Mutant Mudds is here to fill that role in your life. It’s a game that unapologetically hard and you either love it or hate it because of that.
What You Need to Know
Mutant Mudds stars a young boy named Max (this is the third game in a week that I’ve played that starred a young boy named Max). He’s hanging out at his Grannie’s house playing video games when an asteroid crashes into the earth. This asteroid brings along with it mutant aliens made of mud. Max figures the best thing to do would be to stop playing games, strap on a water gun and save the world.
What follows is a classic platforming game that feels straight out of the NES/SNES era, complete with punishing difficulty, simple control schemes and a good deal of replay value. Each of the game’s 16 levels has hidden bonus areas that are themed around classic Nintendo handhelds like the Game Boy and the Virtual Boy giving you more than 40 levels to play through overall.
One of the best things about Mutant Mudds is that it doesn’t hide the fact that the game play and level designs are pulled straight out of the SNES and NES era. The simple pixel art feels very much like it would have come out towards the NES’ life cycle. It’s clean, crisp, bright and just a lot of fun to look at. Max’s hair bobs up and down as he walks along, bubbles pop with little pixelated bursts, and enemies display truly sinister grimaces on their faces.
The controls also feel very retro in their design. The d-pads works best to control Max. All of his actions are mapped to one of two buttons. You can jump and you can shoot. That’s it. There’s nothing else to it. It takes that old, simple NES control scheme, brings it up into a new “classic” game and it feels right at home.
Power-ups come in the form of interchangeable weapons and jump packs. You can only have one equipped at a time. Some of the hidden levels will require a powered up blaster, while others will require additional boost from your jump pack. It’s up to you to decide which one you want at any given time.
Good Level Designs
In just a bit I’ll get into why I don’t like the level designs, but at the same time I also really like them. Mutant Mudds began life as a 3D platformer on the DS, but development was eventually moved over to the 3DS into the form you know now. Having seen footage of the earlier build it worked out for the better. Rather than a traditional single plane of movement you’ll be moving in and out of the foreground through the use of jump plates. All of the enemies and characters shrink and grow based on which plan they’re in. For the most part it’s easy to tell where all of the elements of the game are in, but every once in a while you’ll make a move thinking an enemy is in one plane, only to realize that they’re in a different one and it will cost you a death.
This game is hard and it doesn’t pull any punches. Games like Mega Man were difficulty because enemies would spawn off screen over gaps after you’d already began your jump and there was nowhere to go. Platforms would vanish from underneath your feet and a bottomless pit would be your reward. Mutant Mudds takes lessons from those old NES games and brings back many of those concepts from yesteryear. You have to kill enemies that are sitting on tiny platforms. Those platforms are made of ice and if you don’t jump immediately upon landing on it you slide to your death. You must time jumps onto disappearing platforms so that you land the instant it reappears and you have to immediately jump onto another disappearing platform because it’s only going to be around for one second.
I can’t count the number of times that I died because of classic game play elements, many of which are no longer around because they frustrate players. I’m all for a good challenge, but many of the “challenges” in Mutant Mudds would be considered cheap by today’s gameplay standards. Despite all of the cheap deaths you do feel some sense of accomplishment when you complete those levels.
The extreme difficulty is only enhanced by the fact that there are no checkpoints in the level. If you die you go back to the very beginning only to have to replay all of those sections over again. You can’t begin to understand how frustrating it is to finish a level and realize you died a dozen times less than two platforms away from the exit.
Mutant Mudds is one of those games that many gamers remember from their younger days. The game is hard and it doesn’t apologize for that. The levels are cleverly designed, while at the same time being extremely difficult. Be aware going in that you’re going to die, a lot and many times it’s going to feel like the game is cheating. If you get frustrated easily and you want to continue to own a 3DS Mutant Mudds isn’t for you. However, if you are looking for an old school challenge in a game that’s REALLY hard then you’re going to feel right at home.
Review copy of the game purchased from the 3DS eShop.
Played through all 16 main levels and 7 bonus levels.
Total Play Time: 5 hours