[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in The Harvest Bundle currently running on IndieGames' co-created site Indie Royale.]

I often find myself pleasantly surprised with my second impressions of video games. Way back when it came out, I booted up Renegade Kid's scrappy underdog platformer Mutant Mudds and wasn't overly impressed. It felt too sensitive, a wee bit unforgiving and home to a handful of 3DS to PC port issues. In my haste to finish it, I focused on what I felt the game gets wrong about platformers. But after opening it for a second time as part of this wave of Indie Royale posts, I found myself charmed by how much this homage to the portable games era gets right. It may not be a perfect platformer, but Mutant Mudds is certainly worth a look.

Like every game in my expansive Gameboy Color library, Mutant Mudds keeps story and premise to a minimum in favour of packing the game with content. After mud creatures invade Earth, a young kid finds himself in a convenient hub world, and must open each door and grab the water crystal that lies beyond. To assist with this, our protagonist is armed with lasers as well as a low capacity but quick charging jetpack. With just three hearts, you need to traverse the dangerous landscapes and shoot the varied Mudds that get in the way, also leaping between the foreground and background as required. Though it's not as impressive without the gee whiz 3DS effects, the short and dense levels combined with the non-linear progression makes for a pretty standard, but rather entertaining platformer.



Though one thing that isn't so standard is the difficulty. Mutant Mudds is really quite hard, thriving on instant death spikes, no checkpoints and crowds of enemies to breed frustration and ire in its players. This can be a bit annoying as the levels aren't short enough to provide that Super Meat Boy style quick gratification, but it is in keeping with the old school style. Repetition and memorization is key, but so is careful timing and quick reflexes. Renegade Kid designed the game to have very precise timing requirements, so it's quite difficult to make it from start to finish with just three measly hearts per level. Still, anyone fond of a challenge will enjoy while those prone to rage-quits might not.

But if the basic twenty levels don't phase you, an additional twenty challenges are available by unlocking upgrades that expands the homage beyond the Gameboy Color. These remixed challenges are hilariously based on the sickly green-grey screen of the Gameboy and the blood red filter of everyone's favourite eyeball melter, the Virtual Boy. And ever fond of the fake-out ending, beating all of these unlocks Grannie and her own brand of twenty tough CGA levels.

I can still gripe about small things like being forced to use the crummy 360 controller D-Pad, the universal plague of ice levels, rare instances of unwinnable situations and leaving out certain basics like an in game quit button. But beyond petty quibbles, there's charming retro sprites and an excellent chiptune soundtrack plus a downright loving infatuation with the history of the portable platformer. With this sort of attention to style, it's easy to see why Mutant Mudds won over the hearts of critics.

[Mutant Mudds, Avernum: The Great Trials Trilogy, Pineapple Smash Crew, Spirits and BasketBelle are available now in the Harvest Bundle at Indie Royale.]