The original Mutant Mudds was a challenging platformer that put players into the shoes of Max, a boy with a water cannon and a jetpack. It was a difficult game that took advantage of the Nintendo 3DS’ 3D function, allowing you to jump back and forth between layers of background and foreground. Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is a new entry that takes the assets and gameplay from the original and remixes them into tough-as-nails levels.
Like its predecessor, you play as Max, whose sole mission is to stop mud creatures by collecting a water sprite at the end of each level. Once again, you are armed with a water cannon that can shoot bubble bullets at foes. Pressing the jump button twice activates your jetpack, allowing you to hover over short distances. The hover is limited, but you can shoot enemies, turn around, or end the hover at any time while in midair. This leads to tight controls that give you opportunities to perform slick moves while avoiding danger. At certain launch points, you can jump between different layers of background and foreground. While this may work in the 3DS version, playing on a non-3D system makes this process a little frustrating. If you’re in the background, foreground obstacles will sometimes block your view. Conversely, being in the plane closest to the screen can be disorienting.
Anyone familiar with the original Mutant Mudds will have no trouble getting re-acquainted with the gameplay. This is done purposefully since developer Renegade Kid’s purpose is to challenge veteran players. The level is methodically designed to take advantage of your tight jetpack controls. One-hit-kill spikes, bottomless pits, and rounds of enemies constantly stand in your way, usually requiring you to use up the maximum length of your jetpack’s hover. Enemies return from the original game, including mud piles that shoot projectiles and flying mud balls that drop bombs. Ghost enemies that cannot be attacked without a special weapon also make a comeback. Further increasing the difficulty, enemies are placed in locations between spikes and pits, and you have to master shooting at targets while hovering to avoid death. Later levels throw in slippery ice, poisonous bubbles, and clouds that blow you into the foreground. Instant death aside, you only get three hits before having to start over. The game realizes how hard it is and keeps track of your death count, with a counter that goes into the millions. Even then, conquering each level is rewarding, and deaths never feel unfair. Generous mid-level checkpoints and unlimited continues encourage you in the face of adversity.
As fun as the challenge is, this is not a game for beginners. Even the first stage is brutal and will likely take a good toll on your death count. The learning curve is almost non-existent, and there is no tutorial. From the get-go, you are expected to know how to play and be really good at it. Players new to the series shouldn’t start with this entry but instead play the original Mutant Mudds first.
It can be a struggle for even the best players of Mutant Mudds, but the game thankfully provides three useful power-ups from the get-go. A stronger water cannon extends the reach of your bubble shots, a high-jump allows you to reach new heights and can be used as a form of double jump, and an extended hover doubles your air time. You can only have one power-up at a time, but each one is extremely useful. In addition, you usually need a particular power-up to unlock the hidden bonus level in each stage. They take you to V-Land and G-Land, with color palettes reminiscent of the Virtual Boy and Game Boy, respectively. These levels are almost as long and just as difficult as the ones they are hidden within. They also include their own end-of-level water sprites, effectively doubling the total level count.
Each of the 20 levels and additional bonus levels houses 100 collectible coins. The coins provide added difficulty and finding them all will require some exploration, including locating secret entrances in walls. These entrances are sometimes hard to identify, and the game only vaguely hints at their locations by showing you a small slit at the wall. Thankfully, you only need to collect each coin once per playthrough, so you can focus on missed coins on your return trip. Unlike other platformers where the coins are extra collectibles, you must obtain all coins in each world’s level to fight the corresponding world’s boss.
Bosses are brand new to the series and are well-implemented. Each boss is unique and provides either a platforming challenge or a tricky puzzle. It’s a surprise that Renegade Kid hadn’t included boss fights in the original because its clever boss encounters work well with the Mega Man-like action.
Graphics & Sound
The retro sprite-based graphics return in Super Challenge and look as wonderful as ever. The game sports an upgraded 8-bit artstyle that is more colorful and detailed than an NES game could ever handle. The goofy expressions on enemies and Max’s lovable idle animations bring the game to life. The music is just as lovingly made, with novel catchy chiptunes accompanying the new stages. Retro music fans can collect hidden CDs in each stage, awarding one of the background tunes in the sound test.
Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is a welcome return to Max’s sprite-based world of tight controls and inventive hover-based platforming. With 40 levels and 100 required collectible coins in each, the amount of playtime depends largely on players’ skills. Intentionally tough but fair, the level design tests even the most hardcore players, and cruel bosses may impede progress indefinitely. Regardless, the challenge is very fulfilling and will leave you wanting more after the credits roll. Beginners beware: play Mutant Mudds first to learn the ropes. Once you’ve mastered that, take on the Super Challenge if you dare.
Note: A PS4 review copy of this game was played for this article. This review was posted on Darkstation.