Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Mutant Mudds for Nintendo 3DS

Mutant Mudds is a fun little platformer available now on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Never a company to have the greatest online strategy, it looks like Nintendo is making decent progress with the 3DS. The eShop has its problems, Jerry ‘Tycho’ Holkins recently described the experience of loading up the eShop as like ‘waking up in a coffin’, which hits the nail on the head fairly well. If Mutant Mudds is an indication of what’s to come though, I can forgive the eShop’s awful design.

The plot is…well, it makes Super Mario look like War and Peace. You are Max, a geeky looking kid who’s sent by his grandmother to fight off an alien invasion of oddly cute little critters known only as ‘Mudds.’ The gameplay is fairly standard platforming fare, but to spice things up you have a little blaster gun and a limited burst jetpack too. Each level contains 100 little chips to pick up, and it’s worth doing so as without them all the proper ending to the game cannot be seen. The game makes excellent use of the 3D capabilities of the console,  with each level existing on three layers; front, centre and back. Little pads spotted throughout the stages allow Max to jump between these layers, with the 3D effect creating a clear distinction between each layers. Although largely a stylistic innovation, the gameplay does subtly shift between each perspective. Whilst at the back, Max is tiny and the player can see a large amount of the level stretching ahead of them, and so can plan the best way to approach, which enemies to blast first and when etc. At the front on the other hand, Max takes up a large amount of the screen, so it is difficult to anticipate what’ll be coming next, so the gameplay becomes about quick reaction and instinct, jumping just in time to avoid the new enemy attack. It’s not a massive innovation, but it’s pretty cool and presents one of the few compelling cases for the 3D capabilities of the 3DS that I’ve seen.

The controls are utterly precise, in a way that is difficult to put into words. It just feels good to play, the way you walk, the way you jump, everything. The game is never unfair; if you die, it’s your fault, not because of a cheekily placed enemy or impossible jump…and you will die. A lot. This game evokes a simpler time in gaming, where simple challenge defined gaming rather than how cinematic an experience it provides. Sure, it’s frustrating, but you’re never frustrated at the game, just yourself for cocking up.

The game looks great, full of lovely primary colours and some interesting stylistic choices. Each of the forty levels in the game contains another, secret level. Half are rendered in the comforting gray of the original Game Boy and are known as ‘G-Land’ and the other half are in the red tones of Nintendo’s disastrous first foray into 3D, the headache inducing Virtual Boy, known as V-Land. These levels are initially a fun novelty, but as they make up almost half the game it didn’t take long until I missed the vibrant palates of the main levels. It’s not that they look bad, it’s just that by their very nature of impersonating older devices with singular colour schemes they deny what is otherwise one of this game’s greatest strengths. The music is a standard chirpy chip-tune affair, likeable enough but fairy unexceptional. The music never gets annoying, and sometimes that’s enough.

Quirky side scrolling platformers are dime a dozen these days, to the point of becoming a cliché. Mutant Mudd’s doesn’t attempt to show off with the flashy mechanics of games such as Braid or Fez, but excels through being just so damn well made. Not every game needs to be a grand innovator, sometimes it’s ok to take a genre that’s been done to death and make it yours. If you want something really new and exciting, then this probably isn’t for you. If a nice, challenging platformer takes your fancy, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Mutant Mudds.

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