May 13, 2013

Review: Mutant Mudds

Available for 3DS eShop ($8.99), iOS ($4.99), PC ($9.99), Steam (coming soon), Wii U eShop (coming soon)
Mutant Mudds is a game I really want to love, but I hate it. I hate that I hate it, but that's just the way things are.

The game opens with some sort of evil space mud falling to Earth. Max, our main character, is sitting at home with his grandmother watching tv when the meteor hits. He immediately put on a backpack full of water that he has for some reason, and sets off to fight mud mosters. Yeah, it's a charming little platformer and about as simple as it sounds. You jump, shoot water, and can hover short distances with your waterpack. That's really all there is to it, so you'd think the game would be great in its simplicity. Let me explain to you all the places where it goes wrong. 

First, the game has an extremely annoying timer that counts down as you play. You're only given a four minutes to complete each level which really discorages exploration. But for some reason the levels are packed with secret areas. You may come across bonus stages or treasure troves of little diamond money things. But wander off too long and you'll probably run out of time.

Next, your little water gun has a very limited range and can only shoot in front of you. You know hows it's really annoying in Metroid that your gun has no range at the start? It's like that except you can't upgrade it. My frustration with Max's gun ties into the ridiculously unforgiving enemy placement. The game frequently puts enemies above you that you can't shoot up at as well as enemies just off screen. I fell victim to this many times when making a jump I thought was safe. There are also obstacles such as spikes that will kill you instantly when you touch them. Even from the side. Can you imagine playing a version of Sonic where the spikes kill you if you touch the side of them? It's maddening!

To make matters worse, you can only take three hits before you die. If you die or the time runs out, you're sent back to the beginning of the level because the game has no checkpoints. Eventually, you'll unlock upgrades that can be equipped one at a time. These will do things like increase Max's jump or the time he can hover in the air. It's a nice gesture, but unless you're playing the bonus (free dlc) stages, you can't use these all at once and so you'll need to be extremely precise in your movements. 

Picture this in 3D.
It's a shame the game has to be so poorly designed because it looks and sounds amazing. Mutant Mudds probably has the best 3D visuals on the 3DS. As you play, you'll find pads that either shoot you into the background or foreground. If you've got the 3D turned on, you're in for a visual treat. The PC, iOS, and soon to be Wii U versions use depth of field instead. It looks nice, but nowhere near as beautiful as the 3D does. Not to mention they've got some secret Virtual Boy themed stages. You'll want to play this one with it cranked up to max. The soundtrack is also chiptune heaven. Mutant Mudds really doesn't deserve a soundtrack this great because it's wasted on an infuriating game.

Mutant Mudds is possible to play once you learn its rules. You'll probably end up dying a lot and having to memorize the stage's layout to make it through. Once you figure out where all the enemies are, the level's jumps, and how to maneuver Max with his stiff controls (unless there's ice, then good luck), you'll be good to go. The problem is that it's not very fun. What looks like a tight downloadable platformer turns into an instrument of torture and frustration. I actually regret spending my money on this game because it was so frustrating. I'd rather tear out my brain stem, walk into the nearest four way intersection, and skip rope with it than continue to play this game. But hey, if you're into that then you'll probably love Mutant Mudds. At the very least, you can demo on the eShop and see how beautiful it is.

Game isn't broken, but not particularly fun

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