Death by Pixels
I have a confession to make. When I set eyes upon games like Mutant Mudds Super Challenge I have an unfortunate predetermined disposition, a thought that instantly pops into my head: Another 2D side-scroller, what can this one do differently when compared to the thousands that came before it? Don’t judge me too harshly, I know this is a counterproductive mindset, luckily games like the aforementioned Mutant Mudds is here to show me, and everybody else, that a genre nearly as old as gaming itself still has a few tricks left up its sleeves.
We need to break free of inadvertently jumping to conclusions based simply on a game’s genre, the proverbial book by its cover scenario. Despite the fact one may know he or she has this problem, it’s not an easy thing to fix. Super Challenge is a sequel to the 3DS’s 2012 release: Mutant Mudds, if you are like me and are unfamiliar with the original, a mere glance at the art style will instantly conjure up comparisons to Nintendo’s resident plumber and Sega’s has-been hedgehog. From the mushroom kingdom-esque platforms and spinning coins, to the Sonic like spikes plaguing your every move, the environments feel oh so similar to the games of yore. However, there is a stark disconnect between the nostalgia and what Mudds actually is and does. Don’t let the cutesy surroundings and sprites fool you, this game is insane levels of hard. Seriously, Dark Souls seems like a stroll in the park with Pokémon Go in hand when compared to the ninth level of hell this will put you through.
Hearing the same music over and over again as you fall on the same pointy object time and time again will fill you with more pain and anguish than four years of a Trump presidency—zing, bad political joke. Developer Renegade Kid knows it, too. That’s why they afford players the ability to turn off the sound effects and music, preventing you from causing damage to yourself and your game console. I cannot understate the difficulty level enough, this game will incite levels of rage in you the likes of which you have never felt, at least not since you were a bright-eyed child playing Ghost ‘n Goblins for the first time—the outing that showed us games, like life, will only get harder from there on out. Some of you will be one death away from taking your game pad and clobbering it over your own head, until it either breaks or you lose consciousness, thus causing you to wake up in a nearby medical facility facing a doctor who is prescribing you a much needed dose of rage quit. Now that you have heard my overdone and longwinded warnings, let’s get the real meat of the experience.
We follow a protagonist named Max as he jumps over and shoots the Mudd, a variety of outlandish baddies crawling and flying around the game’s many colorful stages. From simple worm like enemies and flying pig heads that drop bombs to haunting ghosts, there is an astonishing amount of diversity here. The imaginative characters are appealing to the eye, undoubtedly drawing retro gamers in, but that’s not what will keep them playing. This game is buying rock on the street addictive, thanks mostly to its simplistic style and “just one more time” feel after a death.
You can crouch, jump, hover briefly with the use of Max’s jetpack, fire, and that’s it. It is a bare bones style of play with the most novel aspect being the ability to jump between three sections of the foreground and background. This changes things up enormously, not only because Max will either appear large or tiny depending on which plain he is standing in, but also because the transition between states can lead to some unexpected deaths when those hard to see enemies are lurking just out of sight in the backdrop, ready to add another lost life to the counter. That’s correct, this game counts your deaths, just to rub a little extra salt on the wound.
There is depth to the experience, though, hidden just beneath the surface. To compete a level you will need a lot of trial an error, and a lot of re-education. For instance, there are times when you have to drop and quickly hit your jetpack before franticly firing at an incoming bad guy, all at the same time. On countless attempts I tried to jump over the enemy, or float under him, but no, you have to dive head first into a pit of spikes and shoot him in order to advance. A split second off and it’s over. I would find my fingers fighting the urge to take the plunge—every past gaming experience telling me that it’s not the right way to tackle the situation.
It’s all about timing. I never felt cheated by the game apart from the lack of checkpoints. If, and most probably when, you die, you will restart at either the beginning of the stage or at a rare checkpoint, this is where the frustration comes in. The levels are short, never exceeding five minutes. However, playing the same portion over and over can feel like an eternity.
Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is poof that 8-bit is still fun, and that can be done right in the year 2016. With that being said, this game will most likely only appeal to hardcore retro crowd due to the difficulty level: Every button press matters and needs to be timed perfectly otherwise it is certain death for our hero and a hell of a headache for us. Those brave enough to fight the Mudd in over 40 new levels will have a new addiction for a long time to come. I have a confession to make: I was wrong about the 2D side-scroller, there is a lot more it can do.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed); PlayStation Vita, Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, IOS; Publisher & Developer: Renegade Kid; Players: 1; Released: July 26th, 2016; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.