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Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Mutant Mudds (iPhone/iPad)

Now rockin' your iOS devices
One of the premier eShop platformers hovers over to iOS.

When Renegade Kid’s Mutant Mudds landed on the 3DS eShop, it was a breath of fresh air for the relatively new handheld. Its platforming excellence stood its own with Nintendo’s first party titles and is still today one of the finest offerings on the digital service. Now, it’s made the jump to iOS devices and even though touchscreen platforming has been a bit hit-or-miss up until now, Mutant Mudds makes a great transition – proudly flying it straight to the top tiers of the of the iOS marketplace as well.

With its vibrant, beautiful 2D graphical presentation, Mutant Mudds is one of those lovingly crafted titles that simply warms the hearts of old-school gamers. Using a cool ‘paper thin’ graphical presentation that’s not dissimilar to what’s found in Nintendo’s Paper Mario series, each level has three separate layers that can be transitioned between via jump switches on the ground. In short, you can jump toward and away from the screen. On the 3DS, these layers are easily distinguishable because of its added 3D effect. Of course, this isn’t available here, yet it’s still easily distinguishable by the amount/size of the pixels: large blurry pixels when on the plane closest to the screen, while the furthest layer finds you looking through the middle layer back off into the distant plane – distinctly separating the multiple layers without the need for the 3D effect.

Ugh... if only he had knees
In the world of Mutant Mudds, evil (read: cute) deities formed from mud have run amock throughout the lands and it’s your job to take up the water cannon and jetpack to send these baddies back into the ground. Our hero, Max, runs and jumps like any other platforming hero, but he also can use his jetpack to hover in the air for a short while too. The level design here is expertly crafted to challenge you to make perfect use of Max’s hover abilities and will test even the most skilled gamers out there. If you have played the original 3DS version, you’ll know just how overly challenging Mutant Mudds can be, but there’s now (optional) mid-level checkpoints that substantially curbs the frustration and opens the game up to more casual players – a perfectly fitting option for iOS.

When a game is crafted in this manner, controls have to be dead-on and I’m glad to say that the touchscreen controls work very well, but you’ll want to adjust them in the options menu to set them to your desired positing –  especially true for those playing on the larger screen of the iPad. The slower paced precision oriented gameplay found within Mutant Mudds makes the touchscreen controls more accessible than some other 2D platformers and it only took me a few minutes with the game to adjust to the controls; at which point I forgot that I wasn’t actually pressing buttons to play the game. 

What sets Mutant Mudds so far apart from others in its genre is the extent of additional content that can found within the game. At first glance, one might think that there are only 20 levels of platforming goodness to be had here – which would alone be enough to justify the $0.99 entry fee – but throughout each level you’ll find 100 diamonds that can be collected. These diamonds are the in game currency used to upgrade Max’s water cannon and jetpack, but only one of each can be equipped at a time. These upgrades allow you to either hover longer/further or rocket jump to new heights. Hidden within each stage is a hidden doorway that warps you to either a monochrome Gameboy or red-lined Virtual Boy inspired level. These levels bring forth the true hardcore challenge of the days of old. But, what happens if you beat these levels too? Oh, let’s just say that what you’ll find afterwards if the best part of the game and I highly encourage you to do so!

Platforming in a screen far, far away
Lastly, rounding out the package is an awesome set of retro-inspired tunes, which are in my opinion some of year’s best and right up there with the likes of VVVVVV, Might Switch Force and Super Hexagon. It’s one of those soundtracks that leaves a lasting impression and you’ll want to make sure that you have got a set of headphones handy at all times for quick play sessions. To put it plainly: don’t play Mutant Mudds with the sound off!

When Mutant Mudds hovered over to iOS, some concern on how much of the title’s charm that stemmed from its creative use of the added 3D effects on the 3DS would be lost in translation. Thankfully, those concerns have been smeared and this fantastic platformer has now become available for a much larger audience. With its dirt cheap asking price, there is no excuse for not strapping on your water cannon and sending the muddy deities in Mutant Mudds back into the ground they crawled out of.  

- Christopher Ingram
Find me at Twitter: @Slapshot82  
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Review: Mutant Mudds (iPhone/iPad)
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