Review: Mutant Mudds (3DS eShop)

Here's Mudd in your eye

Mutant Mudds started out as a 3D polygonal platformer called Maximillian and the Rise of the Mutant Mudds intended as a retail title for the DS. Sadly, this retail release and a pitched DSiWare rendition never got off the ground. Not ones to let a good concept die, Renegade Kid instead decided to morph and move the project over to the 3DS eShop. While some may initially scoff at the game's rather simplistic look, there's actually a lot more to this platforming romp than meets the eye.

At its core, Mutant Mudds doesn't deviate too far from traditional platforming mechanics we've come to know well over the years, but delivers a robust challenge through tricky platforming, hordes of baddies and a wealth of collectibles. Max can walk, jump and shoot his water cannon as he fights evil and destroys all things Mudd in his quest to track down the water sprite located at the end of each stage. What makes Mutant Mudds so engaging and challenging is that Max sports an H2O jet pack, allowing him to hover for a short period of time. You'll soon find that if you're going to navigate many of the trickier sections, you're going to have to familiarise yourself with this item a hurry.

Another unique feature, and one made possible by the stereoscopic depth of the 3DS, is platforming through levels on different planes. Using warp pads, you can jump forward and backward to planes in front of you or farther off into the distance. This means you not only have to manoeuvre the section you're currently on, but also keep an eye out for routes and diamonds that might be located on other planes. Not only is the 3D depth used as a visual tool, it's an integral part of the level design and gameplay.

To inject even more challenge and replay value into the package, a secret door is strategically located in each regular level that will take you to one of two different bonus stages. V-Land's reddish hue is obviously influenced by Nintendo's Virtual Boy system, while G-Land is an ode to Nintendo great Gunpei Yokoi and features a monochromatic color scheme somewhat reminiscent of the Game Boy. Both types of stage feature platforming challenges that are far more diabolical than usual, so collecting the water sprites in these will test even seasoned platforming veterans.

Since the game's later levels are fairly staunch in challenge and many of the secret doors can't be reached through conventional means, you're going to need some help. Thankfully, Grannie has just the power-up for you — if you collect enough golden diamonds to purchase it from her, at least. These power-ups range from an extended hovering capability to a more powerful water cannon shot for increased range and effectiveness. Once you've purchased these upgrades, you can go back to earlier regular levels and gain access to secret doors you may have missed the first time.

If there's one aspect of a 2D platformer that has got to be done just right, it's the controls. Thankfully, Renegade Kid has done its homework; not only are the controls extremely responsive, but the variety of moves allows for a huge degree of level design flexibility. The waterpack ends up being the highlight of the package and is executed to perfection with its simple one-button scheme.

Mutant Mudds’ visual presentation is one of the most unique and charming we’ve seen in a while. The simple designs and vibrant colours really make the world spring to life on-screen, especially when combined with the stereoscopic depth of the 3DS display. It's honestly difficult to find another game to compare it to, but it features some of the same visual qualities of the classic SNES title Earthbound, with its basic sprite design and contrasting colour scheme.

There are a host of amazing musical compositions strung throughout the game. Much like the visuals, there's a nice combination of 8- and 16-bit structures in the audio department. There’s also a nice variety of musical styles throughout the various tracks. It's quite clear that Renegade Kid was looking for a very retro sound and composer Troupe Gammage did a great job of complementing the old-school platforming influences with this rather catchy chiptune soundtrack.

Conclusion

We've seen developers blend puzzles with 2D platforming to create some interesting hybrids, but it's nice to see a developer get back to basics and offer up a more traditional platforming experience for players to sink their teeth into. With its crafty level designs and unique visual style, Mutant Mudds offers up the best of both 8-bit and 16-bit worlds, all the while giving fans of the genre a classic 2D platformer. Mutant Mudds might very well be the best eShop game to date, and one no platformer fan should miss.