The Nintendo eShop has found another excellent exclusive.
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Renegade Kid
Release Date: January 26, 2012
Score: 4.5 / 5
Development studio Renegade Kid is most famous for creating Dementium: the Ward, a survival horror game that was technologically very impressive for the Nintendo DS hardware it was running on. It improved on this technology for their other shooter titles Moon and Dementium II, but their newest release has taken the opposite approach. Mutant Mudds is a downloadable 3DS title that uses a retro style and simplified gameplay mechanics, evoking memories of older SNES shooters. Fortunately, Renegade Kid handles the old school as well as the new.
The story’s premise is simple and explained in about thirty seconds. Strange mud-like aliens have come to Earth, attached to a meteor, and are now running amok. You play the role of a young child, aided by his grandmother, who is able to defeat the Mudds with a water cannon and, strangely, a water-powered jetpack that lets him hover. The game is appropriately light on story, suffice it to say that you need to collect all of the Water Sprites that can be found at the end of each level in order to defeat the Mudds.
This game, at its core, isn’t really a shooter, despite what I said earlier; it’s more of a platformer where you happen to wield a gun. As opposed to a game like Contra, where the danger comes from massive amounts of enemies, this game gets most of its difficulty through difficult jumps and hard-to-navigate terrain. The world of Mutant Mudds is filled with floating platforms, bottomless pits, and instant-death spikes, and you’ll need to carefully run, shoot, jump and hover your way around. The enemies will definitely be a pain, but they’re mostly used to make the jumping and platforming more difficult, which I’m definitely okay with.
While the game is made up entirely of flat, 2D sprites, Renegade Kid has devised a clever way of utilizing the 3D capabilities of the system. At certain parts of levels, you can use a special jump pad to leap into the foreground or the background, where more platforming challenges wait for you; as you do so, your character will appropriately get closer or farther away from you, using the 3D effect. It’s a clever way of organizing and compacting the levels, and it can be useful seeing three sections of the level at once; some secrets can be more easily found this way.
There is also at least one enemy that is much easier to avoid with the 3D effect turned on, and another enemy that can blow you to another of the platforming planes. Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like the 3D effect was working perfectly, and more often than not I noticed ghost images on the left and right, no matter how hard I tried to find the sweet spot. It wasn’t debilitating by any means, and I was able to play the game just fine, but it was irritating whenever I saw it, and made me paranoid that I might be screwing up my eyes.
As I would expect from a retro-gaming tribute like this, this game does not mess around with the difficulty. Mutant Mudds allows you about two levels to get used to the controls and mechanics, then the difficulty level ramps up from there. The jumps will get trickier, but more importantly, you’ll have more enemies getting in your way and making those jumps harder. The most difficult part of the game is timing; enemies that fly back and forth, or shoot projectiles at regular intervals, mean that you’ll have to spend time planning your strategy, then quickly executing it in a carefully timed series of jumps and cannon shots; the four-minute time limit for every single level doesn’t help matters any. In later levels, where your jumps need to be near-perfect, the process almost becomes one of trial and error, as the game teaches you how to proceed by letting you fail once or twice; since the penalty for death is fairly minimal, this isn’t a particularly bad system.
The game controls are refined particularly well, and while they may take a bit of practice to get used to (hint: you can cancel the jetpack by hitting the jump button again), once you have the hang of them it becomes fairly easy to pull off the maneuvers you need. As I got to the game’s later levels, I was able to execute some very precise moves, landing in the exact positions I needed and pulling off some skillful shooting. I never felt like I was wrestling with sluggish controls, and the only thing keeping me from progressing was my own ineptitude. The only annoyance for me was the lack of a run button, as the earlier levels had more expansive terrain that I wished I could traverse faster; in the later levels, of course, I barely had a moment to catch my breath. The difficulty of the game is undeniable, but so is its addictiveness; no matter how many times I died, I just had to keep playing and keep shooting Mudds.
The game has 20 standard levels, which you’ll progressively unlock as you collect more Water Sprites; you’re not required to play them in order, either, so you can move on if you ever get frustrated and need a break from one level. On top of this, however, there are a few other things you’ll need to do before you can see the game’s ending. Every standard level has 100 Golden Diamonds in it, and collecting them gives you access to enhanced power-ups: you can get a faster water cannon, an extended hover time, or a rocket boost.
You’ll need these power-ups to find the entrances to the game’s more-difficult secret levels; there’s one entrance hidden in each of the standard levels, for a grand total of 40 levels to play through. In order to see the ending and the credits screen, and unlock a new, superior character, you’ll need to complete all 40 levels and collect all 2,000 Golden Diamonds, a task that ended up taking me between 5 and 10 hours, a good length of time for a game that costs $8.99.
The graphics are decidedly 16-bit, but the resolution is nice and crisp, and there’s plenty of color to be seen; animations are smooth as well. The 3D effect is imperfect, but overall the game sports a look that’s definitely retro, but feels high-quality and modern at the same time. The game also has some entertaining music, also rendered in a retro, 8-bit style that should remind gamers of their old NES systems. There are very few problems with the game’s packaging, though the included digital manual could stand to include a bit more story information.
All in all, I’d have to say that Renegade Kid has hit the mark yet again. Mutant Mudds is an addictively fun platforming title, with plenty of difficulty and enough content to ensure you’ll get your money’s worth. If you’re looking to digitally expand your 3DS library, this game is bound to be one of your best options. If you find yourself playing older Game Boy games on your 3DS, as well as NES or Game Boy Advance Ambassador titles, you owe it to yourself to get Mutant Mudds.
Thanks to Renegade Kid for providing a review copy of the game!