By Josh Speer / March 17th, 2016
|Title||Mutant Mudds Super Challenge|
|Release Date||March 17th, 2016|
|Platform||3DS, Wii U|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Mild Fantasy Violence|
Mutant Mudds always leaves me wanting more, and I mean that in the best possible way. The talented folks at Renegade Kid have done an admirable job of crafting a series that, much like Mario, Mega Man or even Pokémon, continues to build upon our expectations in new and exciting ways. First they did this by introducing the Ghost Levels as a freebie, and now they have done so with Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. The best way to describe it is as the Lost Levels of Mutant Mudds. It’s not exactly a sequel, since there are scant new features. It’s more of a super difficult remix of the first game, with gameplay catered to hardcore expectations. After beating the original Mutant Mudds, I found myself wanting that steeper challenge, and Super Challenge certainly delivers. But the real question is, was Super Challenge better than the original?
Though not a true sequel per se, Super Challenge does pick up right where the original left off. That mysterious Mudd debris, or the Muddteorite as I call it, has crash landed, and it’s up to Max to put an end to the Mudd invasion. You start out making your way closer, fending off Mudds, when suddenly Max is zapped by the Muddteorite and thrown into the distance. The area you land is the new HUB area, and from there you can tackle any of the 4 starting worlds, each comprised of 3 levels and 1 Ghost level, in whatever order you prefer, finally making your way back. However, I strongly encourage you to play worlds in the proper order, because the difficulty starts high and only ramps up the farther you go. I would compare the difficulty of the very first level of Super Challenge to that of the final level of Mutant Mudds. That’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much. The levels are all large, complex, full of well placed traps and plenty of instant death spikes. Super Challenge does NOT hold your hand, and I venture you’ll have a handful of deaths by the end of the very first stage.
Speaking of deaths, there’s a handy new death counter, and you’ll make vigorous use of it. By the end of the first world, I had racked up 64 deaths, and it only got harder from there. You’ll thank your lucky stars every time you reach a Check Point, since it saves your progress and refills your health. Super Challenge is very much an old school hard retro platformer, and I love that about it. While Mutant Mudds was a lot of fun, it felt like it hesitated in truly challenging the player, and I was able to blast through it in short order. That is certainly not the case in Super Challenge, which took me about 7 and a half hours to beat completely. But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain why I enjoyed this harder game so much.
As I mentioned above, the original game was trying very hard to cater to everyone. The end result of this was that it didn’t really ramp up until the very end of the game, and only the final stage proved a significant challenge. Super Challenge, by contrast, has very on point level design and brilliantly cruel enemy placement, so that every level really pushes the player to do their best. A apt example of this is how many enemies will be placed squarely on a platform with no edge, meaning you’ll have to hover to them and blast them to smithereens in mere seconds or fall to your demise. Another great example of the new difficulty is the fact that all of Max’s powerups are unlocked from the beginning, though you’ll still need to go to the shop to switch them out. You might feel that this makes the game too easy, but really you’ll need all the help you can get just to have a chance of surviving. Many levels are nearly impossible to traverse if you don’t have the right upgrade, such as the extended hover, super shot or vertical booster. More importantly, each of the Secret stages is gated, and you will only be able to access them if you’re properly equipped.
While true that there aren’t many new features in the game, they make such creative use of the existing enemies and traps that you will hardly even notice. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the new features. First are destructible blocks. These can be shot to reveal sprites and enemies, and often you’ll need to blow them up in short order to avoid getting KOed by the myriad traps strewn through each level. Second up are hidden alcoves. These are sections of walls that have hidden sprites and other goodies, and often require Max to make a leap of faith over pools of lava or wreathes of spikes to get to them. They are indicated by little windows, but it’s easy to miss them in all the chaos. The alcoves may sound basic, but they truly provide a large fraction of the replay value in the game, since you need to 100% each level in a world, finding every last sprite and CD, to unlock the boss battle. Yes, I said boss battle. Super Challenge FINALLY introduces Muddy bosses to the mix, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.
Each boss in Super Challenge is a distinct threat, and none of them behaves the same way. I went into the first fight against Super Sacky, a giant form of the most basic enemy, thinking it would be no problem. About 30 deaths later, I realized that the boss fights in Super Challenge are potentially even harder than the levels themselves, and that is saying a lot. The only thing the bosses have in common is they each have 3 sickly green hearts, and you’ll need to unearth them to deal damage, fighting through progressively harder attack waves. While I do feel the bosses are a bit front loaded, and found the first two to be some of the hardest, none of them is easy, and all require careful strategy and lightning fast reflexes. My favorite by far was the Papa Pork Plop, who can’t be hurt by Max, and requires you to trick his minion into hurting him. Best of all, the sheer variety of bosses really finally brings home the whole “mutant” aspect of Mutant Mudds.
One thing that really stood out to me in Super Challenge was the art design. While this is still obviously a Mutant Mudds game, it’s somehow prettier than the original. Maybe that was due to the sheer volume of activity happening on screen, or maybe it’s because each stage is huge and well realized. Or it could just be because I played this game on the big screen for Wii U. Either way, the game was old school bliss. One thing I appreciated was how unique the new areas look, such as the Temple found late in the game, full of exotic hieroglyphics and ominous purple hues. Also of note were how cool the Secret stages still look, hued to resemble classics such as the original Game Boy and Virtual Boy. The boss design is also fantastic, as each is distinct, full of personality and menace. My only real complaint is that there weren’t any new enemies besides the bosses, but that’s a minor nitpick. Another area where the game shines exceptionally bright is in the sound design.
Troupe Grammage has truly outdone himself with the musical score in Super Challenge. While you will find classic returning tunes, the new music is incredible. I mentioned earlier that you will have to unlock CDs to access the bosses, but what I failed to mention is CDs can also be played at any time from the music box in the HUB area. It’s hard to put into words, but the music is much more expressive of the individual worlds. The frigid Tundra glints with ice, the blazing Foundry is replete with a vibrant beat and the Temple evokes mystery and death. Honestly, this is one of the few games I would consider buying the soundtrack for, as it is a great example of retro done right.
In the end result, I was incredibly pleased with Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. It’s bigger than the original (sans the addition of free Ghost Levels update), introduces great boss fights, and is enough of a challenge to satisfy this old school gamer. There’s also some hidden goodies to find to add to replay value, as well as trying to beat the game with less deaths. One minor quibble I have is that the game is so linear, and once you beat the final world, you won’t unlock any bonus worlds. But considering there are 20 regular stages, 20 secret stages and 5 boss fights, you can’t really complain about length. My biggest complaint is that I just want MORE Mutant Mudds goodness right this second, but I guess I can patiently wait for the sequel hinted at upon beating the game. For $9.99 this is a steal, especially when you consider it’s cross buy and allows for a further loyalty bonus discount. It’s not for everybody, but fans of the series will be very pleased. This game has actually eclipsed the original Mutant Mudds for me. And for anybody who is curious, my final death tally was 279. Maybe you’ll do better once you get your mitts on Mutant Mudds Super Challenge!
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
3DSdifficultMutant Mudds Super ChallengeRenegade KidSequelWii U