Although the game’s lengthy delay in reaching European shores from the US has been attributed to translation and rating issues, Mutant Mudds keeps plotline and backing story as a minimal element to the overall product. A quick cinematic at the beginning of the game shows a meteorite hurtling its way to Earth, and an invasion by the creatures onboard it -- the game’s namesake, the Mutant Mudds. A young bespectacled boy called Max bears witness to these events through the TV, and armed with his trusty Water Blaster Gun sets out to stop them. Cue the true meat of the game, ‘Pixel Perfection’ not only in the visuals, but in the platforming, too.
Mutant Mudds’ graphical style cannot be praised enough; even when only considering the throwback to the 8- and 16-bit games of yesteryear, their rendition here is backed up with a super solid frame-rate and hit detection that leads to one of the most striking examples on the entire eShop. It being on the 3DS, of course, brings in the system’s strongest selling point, and one that proves to add a whole new dimension to platforming. Mutant Mudds keeps its genre rule-set to a traditional level, but adds a foreground and a background, in addition to the main two dimensional plane, much like Wario Land on the Virtual Boy, in fact.
Throughout each of the levels are yellow jump pads that thrust you onto another plane, usually to allow for progress further or to explore more of the level. Those unable to see the 3D effect when switched on won’t be frozen out of enjoying the game, although those who can will be able to appreciate the startling difference it can bring to a platformer of this nature. Each grouping of levels follows a different theme, be it forest areas, fire pits, even ice worlds and space, all bringing with them unique gimmicks, like slippery pathways and clouds with faces that blow you into the foreground. The music also deserves a mention in this regard, in that it takes a chiptune style that was once set as standard and blends it together with the higher quality sound that the 3DS has more than proved itself capable of, leading to some truly catchy jingles.
Mutant Mudds makes use of a level selection hub, whereby upon completing the first world you can select any of the others unlocked. This choice of pathways, and the subsequent run and gun approach to platforming, means the game will quickly endear itself especially to Mega Man fans, together with the most memorable aspect of the games; the rock-hard difficulty level.
Make no mistake; Mutant Mudds won’t go easy on you. The first level introduces new players in gradually with the basics of jumping, shooting and hovering with Max’s trusty jetpack via billboard signs near the sections that require said moves. However, after that the gloves are off, with demanding, yet compact, level design and pixel-perfect jumps that require near-instant reactions and timing. Later levels, in particular, are very brutal, but not once do you feel it is the fault of the game that you missed that platform or got caught out by an enemy, as there is always a way forward.
One thing players may rage over, however, is the nature of health points and checkpoints in the levels. Namely there are only three of the former to a whole level, and none of the latter. The game is automatically saved between levels, so there is no worry about having to do a complete run-through of the whole game in one sitting, and the life total is unlimited so you can give that particular segment of a level as many tries as it takes, but with no checkpoints available you will have to go through the entire level again upon a death. Not as harrowing as it sounds given the short length of the stages, and the reduced time it takes to get to the point you failed at when becoming familiar with the layout of it, but the number of enemies and instant-kill spike traps and pits certainly won’t give you an easy time of things. Also, the four minute time limit will certainly keep players on their toes. Some may call this punishing aspect of game design one that is better left behind, but in a game as respectful of its roots as Mutant Mudds it fits surprisingly well, and any mounting frustration gathered by dying at that one single area multiple times is hushed down by the sheer charm the game has. Difficulty aside, however, this isn’t the game to consider purchasing from the eShop if you’re after a title that makes maximum use of its host hardware’s features. Touch control is relegated only to menu selection, for example, and any wireless features or multiplayer potential is shelved in favour of a compact single-player experience.
Although forty levels and zero bosses may not sound a lot to most potential buyers, the way Renegade Kid has integrated them into the game provides far more bang for your buck than those numbers may suggest. Much like the exits structure of the classic Super Mario World, twenty of the levels have been hidden away into the twenty main stages as extra paths, only reachable by straying off the beaten path. While not required to completely beat the main levels themselves, these extra areas provide an even greater challenge for players to gnash their teeth into. Each main stage also has 100 Golden Diamonds to collect; not quite the collect-a-thon pit that so many platforming games fall into, though, as they are littered along the main path taken en-route to the Water Sprite destination marker, but with some of them requiring risky jumping and timing to reach, they provide an extra element of challenge for completists. Even more so when you consider that Max’s Granny requires a sizable number of them to offer you weapon and jump upgrades needed to reach later hidden pathways. Even for the most expert of players this game is no afternoon task, and as a love-letter to the Gaming Industry of old it is well worth taking your time with.