Grab your water guns and jet packs, it’s time to fight off the Mutant Mudd invasion in a fun and unique “12-Bit” adventure! Falling in line with the recent retro-gaming and nostalgia trends, Mutant Mudds Deluxe plays like an old-school NES title, while not trying too hard to replicate any specific classic game that never got the sequel it needed. I picked up Mutant Mudds Deluxe on Steam, in the same manner, I pick up most of my Steam games, from a Humble Bundle, and while I did not set out to Master this game on my first run, I found myself wanting to because the game was just that fun. It features a scant 10 achievements, and none of them are overtly challenging to get, they act more like benchmarks letting you know how close you are to having finished everything this game has.
This article is presented here as a part of Throwback Thursday, where we revisit some highlights from the archives of both Sabrael D. Carroll and M.E. Garey. This particular piece comes to you from May 2016.
This review is part of a series of reviews compiled as The Backlog Report. In an effort to beat all the games I own while also flexing my writing muscles, I am giving an in-depth review of my experience with these games. Scores range from 1 (terrible) to 5 (outstanding) with 3 being a passing average. While I aim to keep these reviews spoiler free but some details may be present to prove my points so read at your own risk.
There is not a whole lot of plot to the game aside from the very basic frame story: A young boy named Max and his Granny are sitting at home when a news report announces an invasion of these mud critters. Max takes it upon himself to grab a water cannon and a jetpack and set out to hunt down Water Sprites, gem-like things with the power to wash away any dirt or mud. That is it. Aside from a few single image cut scenes explaining how you’ve discovered all the Water Sprites, there isn’t much more to the story. Truth be told, if this game is truly a nod back to the 8-Bit era of gaming, then this is all it needs really. Most games then didn’t even have this much motivation for the main character, let alone a resolved ending. After getting all the Sprites in the ‘Real’ Stages, there are some ‘Ghost’ Stages with Water sprites in them, and this is where the story falters just a bit. I would have enjoyed at least some explanation to the second half of the game instead of it being written off as a “who knew these even existed” scenario.
Simple 8-Bit sprites represent Max and his Muddy enemies. The details are subtle but nice to look at, such as the idle animation and how both Granny and Max’s hair moves as they bounce in place. But the sprites aren’t where the visual treats really are. One of Mutant Mudds Deluxe’s key points is the dynamic layering of the game to provide an almost 3D experience. Launch Platforms allow Max to jump into the background or even leap into the foreground to access new areas and secrets. A healthy dose of focal adjustment allows these transitions to be smooth and beautiful to look at. In addition, there are secret areas labeled as V-Land, G-Land, and CGA-Land. Once inside the graphics change to mimic those of the Virtual Boy, Game Boy and old CGA Displays accordingly, which is a nice touch on fun secret areas.
The chip-tune soundtrack for Mutant Mudds Deluxe has certainly earned its way into my personal collection. Adventurous melodies early on evolve into darker and more daring tunes as you get to tougher and tougher levels. With there only being 2 songs per world, I did appreciate that the songs alternated between levels. It kept it fresh and avoided being repetitive. I did knock off a star because of the game’s second half. The Ghost Levels, only had 2 songs for the entire run of 20 Stages! That, unfortunately, led me to both enjoy the jazzy ghost tunes, but also grow very tired of them by the end of it.
Mutant Mudds Deluxe allows for two modes of control. The first uses the Arrow Keys for movement, Z to Fire and X to Jump. A standard set-up for platformers on the PC, nothing new. The one I preferred was the use of WASD for movement, and LMB to Fire and RMB to Jump (an almost FPS set-up). I only had one major complaint when I started playing that, well into the final levels, was still aggravating to me: while you can use LMB to Fire, you can not use it to accept while moving through the Menus. If you are using the WASD set-up, you still need to press X in order to move through menus, which is just a little annoying when you click the mouse a few times and forget that you have an entirely separate accept button.
The difficulty of this game is a testament to the perfection of scaling. Each world introduces a new hazard for you to get by. Forgiving at first, the final stage of each world usually involves a frenzy of hazards requiring timing and precision to get through. To assist you there are three power-ups to unlock: an upgraded cannon, longer jet pack time and a super jump. However, you can only take one of these with you into the levels, which is important as there are secret areas for Max to discover (the aforementioned V-Land and G-Land) which require one of these power-ups to get into.
Inside these secret areas are obstacle courses designed to take advantage of the specific power-up needed to get in, giving a fun challenge and also teaching you how to push your upgrades to their limits. After completing the main game, you unlock Granny, who has access to all three power-ups at once. Her goal is to find the CGA-Land in each level via a combination of upgrades, and through it take on an even harder challenge than you’ve faced so far as you put the triple upgrades to work for the first time. After that, there is still one last challenge: Ghost Levels. In these Ghost Levels, the enemies are phantoms that can not be hurt, meaning Max has to move around them as obstacles instead of enemies which can be shot. The Ghost Levels were not as hard as the CGA-Land Challenges, but they can be tricky. Using Granny for these makes them a bit easier to deal with and a little cheap.
With 20 Real Stages, 20 V/G-Lands, 20 CGA Lands and 20 Ghost Stages, there is plenty to do in this game. On top of that, you can replay the main stages as either normal Max, with one of the three Upgrades or with Granny. This means that each of the 20 Real and Ghost Stages has five ways to beat them. In addition, there are 4 unlockable characters (merely cosmetic changes to Max) to discover in the Ghost Stages. This actually gives Mutant Mudds Deluxe a bit of length. I would have enjoyed seeing each of the secret characters wielding a different combo of 2 power-ups. That would have added to the route options for each of the stages.