Mutant Mudds is not an ordinary 2D platformer. The game combines core genre principles with creative level design, challenging you in new ways. A stiff difficulty level and strict time limits drive you to master each new stage, while a charming 8-bit presentation adds just the right dose of nostalgia to make you feel at home. Although the game could use a checkpoint system and a few more abilities to play with, Mutant Mudds still offers a rewarding experience that mirrors the platformers of yesteryear.
A simple story adds to the game's nostalgic atmosphere. You're cast as Max, a young lad relaxing at his Grannie's house when an incoming asteroid triggers a mutant invasion of vile muddmen. As the mudds reach his Grannie's doorstep, Max bravely straps on a jetpack and repels the invaders with his trusty water cannon. The goal in Mutant Mudds is to clear a stage while collecting every coin, which unlocks more challenging stages and tougher foes. You have to shoot your way through space and beyond if you want to save your Grannie from certain doom.
The game's mechanics are simple, but its stages should prove challenging even for genre veterans. Max's basic abilities are limited to jumping, hovering for brief periods, and shooting potent water bubbles at muddmen, but a strict timer adds incredible pressure. You're given four minutes to complete a stage, and each stage includes a series of death-defying leaps and other twists, like strategically placed blinking platforms and sinister spikes, to keep you alert. Stopping to analyze your surroundings results in serious time penalties, which in turn increases your levels of tension and excitement as you race against the clock.
A variety of enemies--from shield-bearing knights to tiny muddbabies--add extra difficulty and opportunities for strategizing. These monsters often guard key platforms and require you to have fast reflexes to outmaneuver them because they're tough to spot as you're speeding along. In some cases you have to choose between shooting and avoiding foes to keep up with the timer, which adds a tactical element. Three power-ups also provide a little depth, with an extended-hover or vertical-jump ability helping you scour multiple paths for hard-to-reach coins. For additional strategy, you're allowed to wield only one power-up at a time, which motivates you to experiment with the best choice for each stage.
Clever level design adds a refreshing dimension to the game's mandatory coin collecting. Instead of barreling straight through a linear stage, you hop back and forth between the foreground and background, often going in circles to guide Max to the exit. You also encounter enemies that push you from one plane to the next, blowing you off ledges or straight into bombs, which encourages you to stay aware of foes in the background. The 3D dramatically enhances the journey by helping your eyes differentiate between the three planes, highlighting the action as massive boulders hurtle forward to crush you. The 3D effect also applies more depth to the background, which helps you keep tabs on enemies and coins as you quickly jump between fields.
Although the game's intense difficulty has its appeal, you may resent the significant trial and error involved in completing stages. Success hinges on performing very difficult maneuvers against the clock, and you sometimes have to replay stages with different power-up strategies to master tight jumps. You can expect to die often in the process, and the lack of checkpoints forces you to restart a stage from the beginning, which gets repetitive. The good news is that the gameplay also propels you forward, its brief stages motivating you to try that last jump "just one more time."
A cute 8-bit aesthetic boosts the game's retro feel. Max and his enemies are detailed, adorable sprites running through vibrant 2D worlds that really pop in 3D. An infectious soundtrack accompanies the action, with upbeat chiptunes setting a cheerful tone. There aren't any cool combat effects, but watching enemies move between planes remains impressive even with the 3D off.
You could spend 10 to 15 hours completing the game's 40 stages, which include the 20 extra-challenging "secret" ones. These mandatory levels are hidden within the game's regular stages and require much more skill to best, providing more spikes and tougher enemies that increase the excitement. You unlock Grannie eventually, but she's the only real extra, and doesn't play differently enough to inspire another entire play through of this relatively simple game. Fortunately, there's a charm to that simplicity--a comfort achieved by focusing on genre fundamentals--and this familiarity might compel you to revisit your favorite stages.
Mutant Mudds' simple yet challenging gameplay makes Max's adventure more than a nostalgic romp through a colorful 8-bit land. Despite a degree of repetitiveness, the game's cleverly designed stages and unique 3D aspect help it stand on its own. Anyone craving classic platforming action should give Mutant Mudds a try.