January 27, 2012 3:00 PM | John Polson
Renegade Kid's 2D action platformer Mutant Mudds, the company's first self-published title, is the next eShop hit. Kudos to Nicalis for helping out with the QA, as the game felt tight overall from beginning to end.
Players assume the role of Max, armed with a heavy-duty water cannon, a water-powered jet pack, and the intention to clean up the invading Mutant Mudd army. With his standard equipment, Max can blast most of his opposition, collect most of the 100 golden diamonds scattered in each of the 20 stages, and traverse over most hazards.
However, each level has some challenges and secret areas that require Max to power up. Thank goodness for Grannie's attic! The grubby Grannie is willing to part with some power-ups in exchange for golden diamonds. These power-ups add mechanics such as a huge vertical boost (the most thrilling for me), an extended hover, and a power-shot, which shoots faster and further and opens up gates to secret levels.
Players will have to determine which power-up is needed to reach the 20 hidden stages (which almost double the game's length). I won't totally spoil the NES-talgia that these hidden areas evoke, but let's just say the V- and G-Land have very appropriate color palettes. The five worlds that each contain 4 regular stages embody typical platform themes: a gentle introductory forest, slippery ice, fiery lava, fluffy clouds, and outer space.
I've accepted what I found to be atypical of Mutant Mudds as a platformer: it intentionally lacks the speed I've come to enjoy and expect of the genre. The developers traded this to create shorter, multi-layered platforms from which players much skillfully jump or hover to succeed.
I wasn't sure when the day would come, but the 3D feels like it actually adds to the experience of Mutant Mudds. It's possible that 2D games have an extra hurdle to overcome; however, Renegade Kid made a great effort to clear it. Those inter-plane enemies and obstacles and the planes themselves really are given great depth with the stereoscopic 3D.
Speaking of stereo, your ears are in for as much of a treat as your eyes receive. Troupe Gammage nails it with the uplifting chiptunes. They're not rave-inducing; they're just plain fun. They're also available now for "name your price," which is a very smart growing trend for these eShop titles.
Along with great graphics, sound, and player mechanics, Mutant Mudds has generally adorable enemies that attack you on a single plane and on multiple planes. Shielded mudds chase and charge at you, huge anthropomorphized anvils hop between planes to smash and block you, and spiked balls rotate between planes to poke your life away or send you flying into the screen. The cloud, which forcibly blows you into another plane, is the cutest bane of my existence, as a collection of them made for the only tedious hidden level in the stage.
The platform challenges escalate at a generally healthy pace, and, save the anger-inducing cloud one, I never really felt like I was racing against a clock. I'm not sure why there is a time limit imposed on the stages, at all. There are no leader boards, no time-to-point conversions or clear-time goals. Even when I think of Mario's artificially imposed time constraints, at least they reward you at the end of the stage.
I harp on the timer element because I feel like it was a missed opportunity. After you beat the game and get all the water sprites and diamonds, certain variables align such that the game could have been easily extended with stage time-trials. I won't spoil what happens when you get all of the collectibles, but Mutant Mudds didn't provide me any incentive to experiment with what I unlocked.
Another puzzling aspect was that I felt more of a connection with the "mudds" than the main character. Max is easily forgettable in personality and appearance to me, save his large glasses. I harp on this point because I want to say Mutant Mudds feels like a classic platformer, but not having an iconic protagonist prevents me from labeling it as such.
Minute analyses aside, every other sprite, fantastic sound and fun mechanic make this a truly fun experience. I played through the game in two extended sittings, so I can verify Renegade Kid nailed the addictive platforming which earns the game's universal praise. I think almost every platforming fan is going to enjoy Mutant Mudds, available now on the eShop for $8.99, for those five or so hours it takes to experience everything.