Mutant Mudds Deluxe
Wii U Download | Renegade Kid | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $9.99
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Wii U GamePad; Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii U Pro Controller; Classic Controller
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13th June 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
I'll skip the conspiracy theories and let you in on a secret: Some of the contexts games take on, it's as if it is indeed the case that we can re-engage through older eyes -- something Mutant Mudds Deluxe demonstrates rather well. There was a time when I was deliriously in love with platformers, growing up on such well-recognized efforts as Jazz Jackrabbit, and harnessing a fondness for oddities like Kid Klown in Crazy Chase. In lieu of time travel (or tracking down the original cartridges), games like Mutant Mudds present desirable premises, offering opportunities to re-acquaint yourself with bygone eras and remnants thereof that are key to current tastes. And as I give thought to how Mutant Mudds Deluxe has brought these elements together, I'm put at ease by how successful of a return it is to those times.
An upscaled version of the original 3DS iteration, Mutant Mudds Deluxe is set in a world that functions as a distinct collaboration between 8-bit and 16-bit eras -- and being that it is a bridge between the two, it jokingly refers to its disposition as being decidedly "12-bit". From crisp pixel art to uncomplicated mechanics that control reliably, Mutant Mudds appears to have the ingredients necessary to form an attachment to the eras it aims to reference and learn from. But unlike other outings that follow after the same trend, it doesn't strictly pilfer or haphazardly make connections. Instead, it's a rendition that proves faithful in the inspirations that heavily aid it while also being strong enough in its construction to stand on its own two feet.
Something to establish right away is that Mutant Mudds is not of a run-and-gun model, though it projects this impression. Firing from your pellet shooter will bring Max's movement to a brief halt, and in the grand scheme of things, this serves to emphasize the importance of looking two steps ahead to determine if conditions are safe or require a degree of caution. When using Max's jetpack to hover in the air following a jump, his motion is preserved, locking him along the X-axis for as long as the fuel supply lasts. This eliminates tedium that would be had from having to repeatedly jump and shoot to extinguish airborne enemies. And even when the terrain becomes slippery in the ice world, it's a relief to see that the physics remain mostly intact.
Another precaution has to do with dropping from one platform to one direct below. Simply holding Down to duck won't automatically trigger the drop; you must subsequently press the jump button (B), and this is done to prevent complications from arising when trying to dodge enemies or enemy fire on a thin platform. In these respects, the team has demonstrated consistent awareness in how the controls have been handled.
On a similar note, where Mutant Mudds Deluxe offers a tangible difference in gameplay over the original has to do with the new method of play. Renegade Kid has done a great job translating the visuals and design of the original to a larger playing field on the television screen, and with that expansion comes a broader, more calculated view of surrounding traps and the environment at large. No longer limited by the edges of a smaller screen, the wider field brings out a key difference in player methodology, whereby first-time players are less apprehensive or thrown off by tricks foreseen only when it's too late to react, now allowing for more responsive (though still cautious) reaction time and mitigating feelings of confinement.
In taking advantage of Off-TV Play, players are treated to visuals more crisp than those seen on the TV screen, with the viewpoint still according enough leeway to respond to enemies without feelings of sudden takeover. I found it hard to choose GamePad-only viewing after learning how to traverse in a fuller capacity on the TV. But your results and preferences may vary. Same goes for whichever control scheme you decide to main, with the D-Pad being better-suited for cramped passages than the all-around performance of the Circle Pad.
While the game continues to cement its inclinations in the ways of the associated eras, it stops short of having this vision dictate the smaller pockets of the affair, allowing its own design ideas to take shape. Mutant Mudds Deluxe being dimensional in scope proves true in more ways than one, with the structural design giving it an openness in how environments are explored. And it's not secretive about its central gimmick, either. All levels pay heed to an always-present, three-layer plane, where one-way triangle panels shift Max's presence from the current layer to one closer or further away. There's no gradation involved, instead nabbing you right away and remaining set in place throughout the entire course. With this system being ready-made and always at your disposal, not having to wait for the game to introduce or develop its shtick is in itself remaining true to its long-term aspirations.
Ultimately, the game is at its best when the design calls for precision, and in recognition of this fact, Mutant Mudds Deluxe supports the cause with some devilish enemy positions, in conjunction with a mix of spacious and cramped level arrangements that make great use of Max's hovering abilities. Again, the width of the TV screen enables you to foresee traps, as when miniscule enemies are resting on platforms you only have enough space to land (not walk) on. The result: Thought before pre-emptive action, before follow-through.
Other elements include clouds that will force you to the foremost layer where sometimes all that greets you is an empty background. Many times fixtures are located directly above blinking platforms that remain active only for a second or two, and when there are a line of these that must be crossed, that's when the game nears its well-balanced difficulty limits, encouraging consistency in having well-timed jumps. The same demands later come to light in the form of gates with rotating, spiked cylinders -- only it's a matter of moving at the right time, rather than hovering and jumping as before.
The challenging level design is supported in tandem with a development and pace that's perfectly suited for portable gaming. The balance is still retained as Mutant Mudds Deluxe brings this well-tailored mix to the console space, but you can definitely get an affirmative sense that it began life as a handheld offering and is thus perhaps best consumed under that context. Still, the addition of checkpoints here does help keep the pace firm and co-operative -- albeit challenge seekers may choose to toggle these off for added accomplishment. And in its own right, the gameplay is still easy to get hooked on. In actuality, this proves to be a safeguard as the level designs become mildly devious, with players developing the gumption to see all stages through to the end.
For those who may not have a completionist focus, you can take heart in knowing that these are levels you'll be motivated to fully investigate. Beyond the main objective of collecting all the Water Sprites, each level features 100 collectibles (Golden Diamonds) that also readily support the pace of the game, with the prospect of obtaining every last one being highly attainable. To help you carry out your desire to search every last inch of the game, three power-ups can be unlocked that will expand your fuel gauge, equip your buster with power shots, or permit vertical rocket jumps. Only one can be active at a time, so there is an aspect of determining which best equips you with resources necessary to pass sealed doors or reach platforms beyond the reach of normal capabilities.
The aforementioned paths lead to bonus areas that take on tribute-focused skins of the Game Boy and Virtual Boy. Levels found here also demonstrate great design, with some clever timing puzzles that test your reflexes. Besides that, they're also fine throwbacks that are disguised as such by their design being consistent with outside levels, just more claustrophobic. Also a throwback in itself is the soundtrack. While not an especially vivacious collection of tunes, the tempos and melodies are effectively established as being in line with heyday compositions, featuring dominant retro vibes and beep-boop sound effects that simultaneously capture the themes of the worlds they represent while also mentally transporting you to other settings -- like a coliseum (as with the Level Select theme) or a mystical desert (World 3-2). The modest ambience is very fitting and may even be found relaxing for the reason that it never incites further tension or takes attention away from gameplay.
Exclusive to this version are Ghost versions of the game's 20 levels, which feature similar templates with some design changes -- the principal one being that enemies cannot be disposed of. I don't like to make undue comparisons, but unlike Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition, many of these alternations are actually meaningful and make for more evil level designs. The tactics these levels employ and get players to respond to certainly require steady movements and a fair deal of patience. Moving platforms pose threats similar to those of Sonic the Hedgehog's Marble Garden; projectile-firing enemies are positioned in places where players must duck immediately after landing from a jump; and Golden Diamonds are often guarded, with you at one point having to closely follow an enemy into a closed corridor to gather all items before they turn around. My only complaint is that some of the new enemies are silly and less menacing, not fitting in with the rest of the enemy roster.
As a game with dimension that takes precedence over halfhearted inspirations, Mutant Mudds Deluxe does well all on its own. Rather than just pointing back to a time when platformers reigned supreme, it's a case of platforming living on in a shell that pays careful mind to prove its own worth. Free of any large inconsistencies, precise and consistent execution makes Mutant Mudds Deluxe a thrilling take on platforming for just about anyone, but especially for those who've long immersed themselves in the genre. And for those who enjoyed the game on the 3DS, the improved landscape and additional levels may be just enough to pull you in once more. In either case, it's a satisfying experience that shouldn't be underestimated, and there's enough leverage to argue that Deluxe is the best form of it.
27/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 9/10 - Exploration of gimmick faithful to inspiration, problem-free controls, devious level design supports mechanics, strong pace and balance
Presentation 9/10 - Crisp visuals translate well across both screens, expanded landscape has tangible effects, modest yet effective soundtrack
Enjoyment 5/5 - More than a mere throwback, satisfying game design with dimension, challenging yet addicting, encourages a calculated methodology
Extra Content 4/5 - Motivation exists to retrieve all collectibles and locate the many secrets, bonus and ghost levels present a challenge of their own
Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System