Mutant Mudds is the latest in a line of throwback platforming experiences to appear on a Nintendo platform, and call me an old fogie but I think that’s a good thing. Now I’m not that old, in fact the NES was released the same year I was. But the 2D platformer has always been something I’ve loved, and an renaissance of quality titles in that genre is something I welcome.
Mutant Mudds is the ‘story’ of a boy with glasses who is sitting at home with his grandmother, watching TV when some muddy aliens arrive. He grabs his super-soaker and water powered jetpack, and he’s off to save the world. This world being a throwback one, it’s full of pixelated character and chiptunes. Every level is also full of 100 gems, which you should try and collect along the way, as you jump and fly yourself about. Which won’t be easy, because it’s quite a difficult game.
The level design is nasty, making you time your water shots perfectly with jumps that you can just barely reach in time. Remember having to wait to jump until your feet are already pretty much off the ledge before you hit jump? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about, and it’s for all kinds of jumps. Given that the enemies follow set paths, the challenge mostly resides in timing your jumps and hitting things perfectly. The controls are thankfully nice and tight and there isn’t any floatyness in them, but that doesn’t make it easy. Apparently though, that wasn’t enough.
Each level has a time limit on it, and in the Mario style, if the timer runs out you’re dead. I was not a fan of this at all, as it felt unfair. Many times I would have picked my way through the entire level and within sight of the goal, I would run out of time. Annoyed that I had wasted a few minutes I would go back and try and rush through the level, only to die by a spike trap or something else. I realize that time limits were something older games used, but it frankly feels archaic, and really unnecessary. I liked the difficulty level for the most part, but it just didn’t feel like enough time. There were other times as well, that it felt like you needed to die to learn how to continue. In a game like Limbo, this was handled very well. In Mutant Mudds however you need to restart the level. I realize that with short levels like this (3-4 minutes or so) that it isn’t a huge penalty, but it still felt unfair.
Now with levels that short, you’re probably wondering how long the game is. You might be surprised to learn that there are only 16 levels. There are bonus stages in each level that generally require an upgrade to reach (hover longer, powerful shot, jump higher, of which you can have one equipped and have to buy from Grandma) that are tougher, but it still hasn’t that huge an amount of content. If you get the hang of the levels, you can blow through the game in its entirety in an hour or two. This is similar to old NES games as well, which you could often play in an hour once you got good at it.
Now this would all be enough to give it an alright score, but Mutant Mudds has a nifty little feature that adds something special to the game, and justifies it coming out on the 3DS. Every level is actually 3 different planes, each of which you can pop back and forth in on specialized panels. Each level is twice the size of the last, and it adds nicely to the size and complexity of the levels, as well as the ability to hide things like gems and bonus door stages. It’s a great addition to an already charming game.
So we’ve got a nice retro platformer with a neat twist that is unforgiving and a little unfair. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.