i’m always up for a good platformer, and i’d read a lot of good things about mutant mudds. the game plays like a sort of cross between gargoyle’s quest (where firebrand’s hovering mechanic is recreated as max’s jetpack) and the virtual boy wario land in that you’ll be jumping to and from several layers of foreground/background. i’d played and enjoyed the two other games (as recounted here and here), but mutant mudds was definitely a disappointing experience overall.
it’s not immediately obvious to me why this should be so, however, because the game has a lot going for it, and i can see why it’s gotten a lot of praise. overall the title is extremely polished: the retro-style graphics and music are all well done, and the controls provide pixel-perfect level of precision. at first i was put off by the high level of difficulty and it took me a little while to get used to the timing of the disappearing platforms (which form a core component of the levels), but once i realized that this was one of the game’s selling points i enjoyed it for what it is.
the problem is that the game isn’t particularly creative. the levels are all very repetitive with nothing much to relieve the monotony. there are no boss battles, and the three power-ups are all minor upgrades and don’t change the gameplay at all aside from generally making the game slightly easier. the game includes the standard set of worlds (e.g. ice, lava) but, again, this doesn’t lead to significant changes in the gameplay. enemies look good but are your standard fare (with the exception of the pig enemy which drops bombs that explode in a unique pattern), and once i mastered the hovering mechanic there wasn’t anything that was keeping me motivated to finish other than for the sake of finishing.
from a design perspective there are some details that could have helped make the game feel more fun and less cold. max and grannie aren’t given any characterization, not even a “yeah!” when you beat a level. similarly, the enemies don’t react in any way when they’re defeated, other than just disappearing in a burst of mud. adding fun little touches wouldn’t have improved the gameplay, but they would make the experience more memorable and more like a game as opposed to, say, doing your taxes.
i also wasn’t a fan of the pacing of the game. each level contains a secret level that is supposedly more difficult but just felt like more of the same to me. to access some of the secret levels you have to collect enough diamonds (there are 100 in each stage) to unlock the power-ups, which you can only hold one of at a time. this restriction is fine, but it’s annoying that you can only switch power-ups outside of a level so more often than not you’ll be halfway through a level before you realize you have the wrong power-up to get to the secret level, leading to a lot of unnecessary repetition. also, to access the final 4 levels you have to collect every diamond in every level of the main game. then to access the bonus “grannie level” content you have to also beat every secret level in the game. as a side note, the 3-d effect in the game seems a little off to me as well. maybe it’s just me, but i found that the slightest tilt made the images blurry, unlike other 3DS games i’ve played, so i played with the 3D turned completely off. this wasn’t a problem for the most part, although people have complained that the wii u version of the game suffers from the lack of the 3D effect.
it’s interesting to me that the reviewer at nintendolife, who had enjoyed the 3DS version of the game, found that the wii u version “begins to grow tedious, especially if you’re also working your way through the other hidden levels, because they’re not challenging you in unique ways. … It all begins to feel like too much of the same, and a fun short adventure with some challenging levels starts to feel like it’s ballooned into a repetitive slog that doesn’t want you to leave, but also can’t think of any unique ways to keep you interested.” i’m somewhat surprised he didn’t feel that way about the original, since i was already getting bored by the time i’d finished even a fourth of the main adventure’s stages. anyway, even though this wasn’t a particularly memorable platformer, its high level of polish made it much more enjoyable than it would’ve been otherwise.
watery mutant mudds links:
– official site, which includes the full soundtrack
– entry at nintendo.com
– review at nintendolife.com
– renegade kid answers reader questions at nintendolife
– some details on the grannie stages
– entry at howlongtobeat.com