To review this game is to essentially review the original Mutant Mudds. Fundamental gameplay is the same, assets are reused, and overall it feels like a meaty level pack rather than its own game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that fans of the original should expect more of what they enjoyed. Newcomers to the series however, should probably begin with the original instead of jumping in with Super Challenge because as the name implies, it’s much more challenging.
Starting with what Mutant Mudds is at its core, let’s talk about gameplay. Mechanically speaking, Mutant Mudds is top notch. Two buttons and a D-pad are all you’ll need to traverse this game’s finely tuned levels, and while the controls are easy to grasp, the increasingly difficult stage designs are what makes the game hard to master. Spikes, disappearing platforms, ice floors, and mutant mud monsters are plentiful and sure to stop you at least a few times (or seven hundred and ten).
As the name suggests, Super Challenge doesn’t ease you into things. From the get go, levels are hard and only get more arduous as you push forward. That is, if you decide to start from World 1 and move upward. Linear progression is lost in this game because every normal stage is open from the very beginning. For those who like to jump into games at completely random intervals (for some reason), Mutant Mudds is happy to oblige you. It ultimately doesn’t matter because you’ll need to “100 percent” every level if you hope to beat the game in any sense.
There are only 9 levels you can’t enter from the start. Four of these are the new-to-the-series boss battles that only unlock after completing their respective worlds. That means you have to beat the four levels in each world, plus another four hidden levels, and collect the 100 golden octagons in all 8 of them. Then after you beat the boss, you unlock a level within the 5th world, which you need to again fully complete (including the hidden level). Do that with all four of the 5th world levels and you earn the right to face the final boss, who in hindsight wasn’t even the most difficult boss in the game. Still infuriating, but not as much the 1st world’s boss, which has far more things trying to kill you on screen at one time.
Once you finally beat the game, you’ll be rewarded with a measly silver trophy. However, that silver trophy could be a shiny gold if you manage to finish in 100 deaths or less. Mutant Mudds Super Challenge offers up a handy death toll to view via the title and pause menu. After all, nothing keeps spirits high better than a constant reminder of how many times you’ve failed.
Now that I’ve covered the basics, it’s time to delve into what supposedly makes Mutant Mudds unique. Mutant Mudds is very literal when it comes to its layers of gameplay, offering a kind of depth not often seen in traditional 2D platforming. The game allows you to jump between the background and foreground of each level. While this might seem like a truly novel idea and something very intriguing in terms of visual aesthetics, the mechanic itself barely affects any actual gameplay except for some rare and underwhelming instances. You don’t get to switch layers at will when running through the game. Instead there are specifically placed platforms and enemies that allow you to do so. Jumping between layers however merely moves you on to the next part of the stage and not much else. There is a boss battle that relies on this mechanic for dodging a few otherwise unavoidable projectiles, and that’s about as interesting as this gimmick ever gets.
The boss battles as a whole are underwhelming and not a welcome addition to the series, with each battle being pretty generic and reliant on simple patterns to overcome. They’re only made difficult by the sheer amount of crap they’ll throw your way.
Aside from the meaningless layer switching and humdrum boss battles, Mutant Mudds is actually an incredibly competent game as far as pure platforming is concerned. It gives you a goal and the means to reach that goal (a handy jetpack and water gun), it also gives you three swappable upgrades to reach any hidden level. The game never feels outright unfair, instead the more you die the more you understand what it’ll take to succeed next time. The game expects you to be precise and punishes you even when you’re just a second off the mark with things like activating your jetpack. Learning enemy patterns is key to beating this game so you need to be observant in your trials and inevitable errors, and you’ll be sure to prevail…eventually.
Yes, the gameplay is solid…but it’s also not incredibly remarkable. That would’ve been acceptable though if Mutant Mudds had found a different area to shine through in. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. Artistically, there’s nothing about Mutant Mudds that stands out from any other “retro-style” platformer. The game’s animations are minimal, its sprites are dull and generic, and the soundtrack is plain unmemorable. The story, if you can even call it that, is that a meteor hits and the world is invaded by a variety of brown blobs with eyes (a.k.a. Mutant Mudds) and some random boy named Max sets out to defeat them. That’s it. Without a story, compelling visuals/music, or fresh and innovative gameplay, what’s supposed to be driving a player to finish the game?
And that’s my biggest hang up with this game. Other than the joy of completion (and that I was reviewing it), I had no real interest in beating this game. It wasn’t particularly appealing visually, so why would I want to see more of it? The music was fine, but it wasn’t very catchy or outstanding in any sense. There was no story and no climax to build up to, no memorable characters or dialogue, and an overall lack of any sort of meaning or narrative theme. And to top all of that off, IT DOESN’T HAVE A PLATINUM TROPHY! Sure, Mutant Mudds is a good retro-style 2D platformer. But there are already plenty of other good retro-style 2D platformers out there, and they have a whole helluva lot more to offer aside from just their core gameplay.