Thursday 11 July 2013

Mutant Mudds (3DS/iOS/PC)

A moment, please, for the radical kids of videogameland. Where would we be without the likes of Alex Kidd, Ash Ketchum, the infant with the huge head from BC Kid, Chuck Rock's double-hard baby son or even Diddy Kong?

We'd be screwed, because in videogameland the planet's salvation is often in the hands of precocious, occasionally violent kids who do things like hang out with weird unemployed animal trainers (I've got my eye on you, Brock), scour continents looking for Master Swords of Mass Destruction and, in the case of Mutant Mudds' protagonist Max, immediately respond to an alien invasion of Earth by kicking off bigstyle.

This is the point where we join the narrative of Mutant Mudds. After a scant few seconds of an animated intro which shows a meteorite approaching Earth, our boy Max hanging out at his grandma's house and a news report of an invasion of mudmen we cut to Max ready for action, bobbing up and down on the spot with his watergun, water-jetpack and 90s hair. And it's GO TIME.

Mutant Mudds is a charming, well-groomed platformer and is kind of a big deal, leaving a shining trail of rave reviews from its outing on the Nintendo 3DS. It's impossible to not notice its innovative use of depth of field, with the player able to leap between foreground, midground and background at various points in the level, and some elements of its gameplay are very well tweaked (the slippy-slidey ice sections are especially neatly implemented, with really pleasing physics) but there's a haze of frustration that hangs over Mutant Mudds that I just can't get through.

When it hits its stride it's such a good game. The shining moments of gameplay really do shine, and it makes a lot out of some simple concepts. The graphics are lovely, with the switches in screen depth allowing for higher-def background action and super-chunky foreground sprites. The music is chirpy; a slick chiptune soundtrack that mates up well with the gameplay and subject matter. Then there's the profusion of instant-death spikes and an early reliance on flickering platforms that just tired me out.

Level design, though, is smart and refined. Mutant Mudds makes very good use of the three fields of depth to give us levels that go beyond the standard 2D platform fare. That said, I've had more enjoyment from a good few games that did just stick to the standard 2D platform fare.

Mutant Mudds doesn't feel like a game that fits comfortably on the PC). I only have to assume that based on the glowing reviews of its 3DS incarnation that the handheld medium is where it finds its feet. This, combined with a few bumps in the road like the inability to turn around when crouched (or even exit the game from full screen mode without resorting to ALT+F4) makes for a slightly flawed game with great intentions, great style and good execution. There's a lot of cool stuff in there, laid over a skeleton that's slightly skewed (at least on the PC platform).

I still implicitly trust radical young Max to save the world with his mighty watergun, and don't doubt that the muddy invaders days are numbered, but it'll be a while before I rejoin him on his journey.

Purchase the game here (from priced at $9.99).
3.5 out of 5

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