Twenty years ago, we never would have guessed that today’s generation of consoles would embrace 8-bit side-scrolling platformers. With the release of titles like Terraria, however, this trend does not show any signs of slowing. As these games continue to grow in popularity, developers such as Renegade Kid are fusing the power of new hardware with older gameplay styles, resulting in fresh experiences such as Mutant Mudds Deluxe.
For those out of the loop, this is throwback 2D title with a unique twist. Unlike traditional releases in the genre, it requires you to leap into the background or jump out of the screen in order to explore different parts of each level’s environments. In some areas, there are as many as three planes layered on top of each other, offering a chaotic screen filled with moving enemies, platforms, and dangerous spikes.
The title tells the tale of an asteroid carrying a hoard of barbaric, brown monsters. Max, a blond-haired boy with a water gun and a jet-pack sets off to rid the world of the vermin by gathering star sprites. With the help of his Granny, the hero travels through five lands in his quest to eradicate the problematic pests.
Trying to wipe away the Mudds with a water gun is no easy task. There are several different kinds of enemies to attack, each with a different ability and movement pattern. Your weapon aims horizontally, has a limited range, and only fires the next water blast once the last one has disappeared. These limitations result in the cleanup operation being more difficult. You must attack or avoid moving Mudds while ducking through scrolling platforms, tight quarters, spinning hazards, and leaping fireballs.
Travelling through each level requires patience, timing, aiming, and trial-and-error. Each enemy travels on a predetermined path, and careful shooting, jumping, floating, and ducking is needed to avoid enemies and their attacks. You begin each level with three hearts, and halfway through there is a checkpoint where progress through the stage is saved. To add to the challenge, a time limit of four minutes is placed on each outing. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to pass these quotas, but you will need plenty of skill to cross the finish line without losing a heart.
As you progress through the game, new levels and upgrades open up – assuming that you’ve collected the required number of star sprites. There are also Ghost Levels, which force you to slip past phantom Mudds that cannot be killed. The levels offer a real challenge, and avoiding the mutants requires real agility.
Upgrades, meanwhile, augment Max with the ability to shoot longer distances, add a longer lifespan to his jetpack, or the option to leap high into the air. You can only apply one of these upgrades at a time, but the enhancements allow you to complete levels much easier. You’ll also need to employ these additions to locate the hidden rooms in each stage.
Regardless of which power-ups you employ, this can be a challenging game – and depending on how tough you want it to be, there are ways that you can increase the difficultly. You can, for example, disable the abovementioned mid-level checkpoints, allowing you to choose whether you want to be forced to beat the entire level in one run or not.
The music and visuals are enjoyable throughout the game, although the song selection for each of the shadow levels does get a little stale after a little while. When jumping in and out of planes, it can be very chaotic, as the foreground remains visible while you play. This increases the challenge on some levels, requiring a much greater focus if you want to make it through unscathed.
There’s plenty more to do once the vermin have been scrubbed, too. Gathering all of the star sprites, all of the golden diamonds, completing the secondary levels, and the other special levels offers plenty for you to accomplish beyond the core campaign. Granted, it’s possible to finish the adventure in less than eight hours using the hardest settings – however, since so much of the game revolves around replaying the same levels multiple times, you may not be compelled to come back once you’re done. Furthermore, the conclusion of the adventure is lacklustre, forcing you to focus on the satisfaction that you obtain from finishing the levels rather than exciting cutscenes or plot twists.
Mutant Mudds Deluxe takes the old-school platforming formula and freshens it up with a unique twist. The dimension hopping hook augments a tactical layer to the traditional side-scrolling action, and the occasionally devilish difficulty will test your dexterity. While there’s a lot of content to get through, however, the adventure does get repetitive at times. Nevertheless, there’s not a whole lot of grime in this game – just good, clean fun.