Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: None.
Developer: Renegade Kid
Price: £8.10, 9€, $8.99
Pound for pound the 3DS eShop is surely the greatest source of gaming anywhere. Every release is a fantastic example of the digital platform, covering a wide range of genres; I applaud Nintendo’s decision to not litter it with crap (though surely that time will come) and make sure each release is quality - Nintendo Seal of Approval! Mutant Mudds is the latest and not only compounds the excellence of the eShop, but how pixel art and chip-tunes have grown beyond nostalgia and have become a style/design choice.
Mutant Mudds starts with our hero Max at home with his grandma, both playing on their 3DS’ as the news comes in of an invasion of the titular Mudds. Max, armed with his water gun, aims to clean the Mudds away and save the world (or so he can get back to thrashing his grandma on Mario Kart). The gameplay is as simple as its story, there are 5 themed worlds , each with 4 levels, which you have to navigate through and get the water sprite at the end of it, collect all the water sprites to defeat the Mudds. What isn’t so simple is the ‘getting to the end’ bit; this game is hard, incredibly, at times frustratingly, but always brilliantly, hard.
The genius of Mutant Mudds is within its gameplay hooks, the first and most beautiful is within its use of 3D, using yellow jump pads Max can move between 3 planes, which not only looks stunning in 3D, but also makes the platforming feel fresh, quite superficially admittedly, but it also adds to the difficulty, as the further away Max is, the smaller the enemies and platforms are, making everything much more difficult. The second hook (and continuing the Super Mario Sunshine theme) is Max’s ability to use his water gun to float across ravines and over enemies; and it is this which truly gives the game its difficulty, allowing the developers to create levels which force you to need incredible judgement and precision to time the jumps, avoid enemies and land on the moving platforms.
Luckily the game is designed to absolute perfection, and what makes the game truly work is the controls - moving, jumping and hovering are absolutely perfect, which makes everything that much more enjoyable, I haven’t felt this fully in control of a games character in a long, long time; the weight and distance of his jumps, the pixel perfect collision detection with enemies and ledges, it’s absolutely faultless.
On top of the 20 levels, Mutant Mudds also has a few extra incentives. Each level has a secret level to find (meaning 40 levels in total) - G lands and V Lands; these are even harder than the main levels and have the extra visual gimmick of looking like Game Boy and Virtual Boy games; similar to the 3D, this simple visual twist adds a surprising amount of enjoyment to the levels (and a nice nod to another inspiration in Wario Land for the Virtual Boy). Each of the main 20 levels also have 100 Golden Diamonds to collect, though disappointingly, barring only a couple of levels, they just follow the main path to the end and require no exploration or alternate paths, meaning it’s actually more frustrating to actually miss one and have to replay the level, rather than adding an additional challenge.
We’ll admit it, the difficulty won’t be to everyone’s tastes, having died multiple times on level 2 I was beginning to worry if I could even finish the game before I needed to write this review, and all fears of it only offering a couple of hours gameplay disappeared. There is no balance to the difficulty, in Mario 3D Land for example it is easy to finish the levels, very hard to get all the coins, and even harder to then do the same with all the secret levels; but Mutant Mudds isn’t this accessible, just finishing the levels is hard. This is not a criticism as it’s clearly the intention, but if it followed the Mario way I feel it would have added to the title and made it a touch more appealing to the wider gaming public; if the levels were a little easier to finish, but the Golden Diamonds were much harder to collect; this would have been the best of both worlds. I love the difficulty and I didn’t stop until I finished every aspect of the game, but I know a few people who just couldn’t get through it; I just hope the games brilliance is enough to earn the less-skilled gamers perseverance.
One disappointing aspect to the game is its use of power-ups; the Golden Diamonds act as the games currency and you can buy power-ups from your Grandma (even your capitalist Grandma takes advantage of war!), disappointingly these don’t really add anything to the gameplay - there is power shot, fly upwards and extra hovering time; but these really only give you the required skill to reach the secret levels; which is fine, but I just wish they could have been implemented into the game a little more, and it can be frustrating looking for a secret level only to realise you haven’t go the right power-up, forcing you to quit, go to your Grandmas attic and re-equip the right one. This is only a small niggle, and doesn’t detract in the slightest from the experience, but maybe something for the sequel.
Overall Mutant Mudds is borderline perfection and the latest digital genius on the eShop. The style is truly fantastic, from the chip-tune music to the pixel graphics; with perfect controls and level design. The game will offer you around 6-10 hours of gameplay (depending on skill) and give you a full range of emotions from joy to murderous rage, that’s worth anyone’s money. Renegade Kid are an extremely exciting developer and we can’t wait to play their future titles.
A lot has been made of the pricing on the eShop (and digital stores in general), I personally believe the smartphone app stores have distorted and devalued game pricing, but that’s for another day. Mutant Mudds may be one of the most expensive titles on the eShop, but it’s also one of the best and offers more value than the likes of VVVVVV and Mighty Switch Force (two of the best eShop titles) and £ per hour it's better value than 95% of all retail releases, so there’s no question it is worth it.