Indie Quickie: Mutant Mudds Super Challenge

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What is it and who made it? Renegade Kid’s super challenging sequel to retro 2D platformer Mutant Mudds (and Mutant Mudds Deluxe, which we reviewed here), published by Nighthawk Interactive.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? It came out first earlier in the year on 3DS and Wii U via Nintendo eShop. More recently, the game has launched on Steam and the PlayStation Store for PS4 and Vita. All versions are $9.99. Cross-buy is also available for the console/handheld platforms.

How much did we play? I beat 24 of 45 stages in around three hours of playtime with the Steam version. I’ve collected 2158 gems, 22 of the 41 music track CD collectibles (to play from the hub jukebox), and 4 of the 20 bonus playable characters. My total death tally is up to 211, and counting.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? One small thing that’s kind of annoying is having to set the screen resolution every time starting the game. The game launches at a default windowed resolution of 640×360, but even if you change it the settings don’t save for the next boot-up. Since the UI uses a Windows drop-down menu, there’s also no way to access configuration settings after switching to full screen view.

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Why should you play it?

    • Mass Grave of Mudd: The original Mutant Mudds already put forth a healthy challenge, but, as conspicuously spelled out by the title, the level of challenge has been supersized for the sequel. I honestly think I died more times in the first stage than I did in the original’s first 10-15 stages combined. Part of that was admittedly from re-familiarizing myself with the nuances of the gameplay flow and core mechanics, but there’s no doubt that the Renegade Kid level designers got a whole lot more devious here by increasing the volume of enemies, making the placement of those enemies even trickier to demand quicker reflexes and even more precise timing of jumps and jetpack hovering, and creating tighter landing spaces that greatly reduce the margin of error when jumping from platform to platform or avoiding spikes and other pitfalls. Brand new to Super Challenge is the addition of boss battle stages; I’ve only managed to unlock and beat the first boss, and it was a pretty damn brutal showdown against a mud blob that duplicates into multiple, smaller blobs as it takes damage, all within a fairly cramped arena about the size of a typical Mega Man boss stage. More difficult than beating the bosses, is simply unlocking them, a feat that requires completing all four standard levels and all four bonus levels in each world while also collecting all 100 gems in each stage. That’s a whole lot easier said than done, especially since this game likes to put the gems in more dangerous areas and even hide them behind false walls.

    • Challenging But Fair: As many times as I’ve already died without yet achieving even 50-percent completion, I have to say that I never felt all that frustrated, in a rage quit sort of way, even when getting stuck in a die-and-retry loop on an especially devilish stage. This is because dying rarely, if ever, is a result of cheap, poorly balanced level design or faulty control response–if you die, it’s almost always due to user error, because you didn’t pay close enough attention to an enemy’s movement pattern, got too eager or impatient, or mistimed a jump or jetpack boost. It also helps that the individual stages are fairly short, with midway checkpoints as well as quick reloads between deaths to keep downtime to a minimum. Each level now starts with a 4-minute timer, which causes immediate game over should it ever expire. However, reaching the checkpoint resets the clock to a full four minutes, in addition to refilling any hearts that may have been lost during the first half of the level. Of course, players looking for a true challenge can switch off the checkpoints. And it’s clever design that the 100 gems in each stage create a sort of built-in risk/reward difficulty modifier, because choosing whether or not to attempt collecting them all directly impacts your chances of success. This game is tough, but it’s also more lenient than platformers of yesteryear.

    • Indie All-Star Cameos: Speaking of meaningful collectibles, one of my favorite new features in Super Challenge is its cast of bonus playable characters (20 in all to go with default hero Max). I’m not talking about just random bonus characters either, but rather star characters from other Renegade Kid titles as well as a wide range of popular indie icons from fellow developers. For example, so far I’ve unlocked Rusty from SteamWorld Dig, Pip from Adventures of Pip, and King from Mercenary King. Commander Video from the Bit.Trip series, the boy from Teslagrad, Abe from Oddworld, Shovel Knight, and Shantae are some of the other notable cameos. Their hiding spots within the game’s bonus stages are hard to spot, but trying to catch ’em all, so to speak, will definitely be a main replay draw for completionists. As far as I can tell none of the characters have any unique traits or gameplay abilities, though from those that I’ve unlocked so far, they do appear to have their own unique standing-still emote animations (King turns to the screen and grins, Rusty gives a tip of the cap, Pip throws a friendly wave, etc). That’s a nice touch.

Parting Thoughts: More so than even the first game, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge embodies the simple purity of what made 2D platformers from the 8- and 16-bit eras so iconic and everlasting. This sequel does contain fewer levels by number than its predecessor, and there are a lot of reused art assets in terms of familiar stage backgrounds and the same enemy types and multi-plane level design tricks. But the higher level of difficulty plus the expanded unlockable rewards adds more overall value to the experience if you ask me. Anyone game for a stiff but fair challenge of their platforming skills absolutely needs to jump all over the retro love that is Mutant Mudds Super Challenge.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Mutant Mudds Super Challenge was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!