Mutant Mudds is a decided homage to the best of what modernized retro platformers would have to offer, were they still a dominant force in today’s gaming pantheon. And though it’s not always obvious, that’s exactly what 2D platformers have become in recent years – a dominant force. It began subtly in 2006 with New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, and before long what initially seemed like a quick cash-in revival had spawned a massive genre resurgence the likes of which I can’t really remember having occurred before. Think about it – Rayman is back. Donkey Kong Country is back. Kirby is back, things like Super Meat Boy and Bit.Trip Runner exist, and of course, there’s Mutant Mudds. Does Mutant Mudds Deluxe offer anything crucially important over its superb 3DS original? Well, perhaps not, but if you’ve never played it before then PSN is as good a place to indulge as any.
If you have played Mudds before, then you understand how its levels are put together. Much like the aforementioned Rayman titles, levels aren’t necessarily built to make sense, but rather assembled precisely so as to be played in a certain way. Enemy placement reflects this in a big way, as does the need for thoughtfully timed jumps and shots at baddies. Memorization is not mandatory — though it can often be a valid strategy with the game’s more difficult offerings — but at the same time skilled players will find themselves able to succeed via reactionary means while still being substantially challenged. You’ll be killed often, but you’ll never feel cheated – an important feat for any platformer and one that Mutant Mudds effortlessly achieves.
The rest of the experience is largely as it appears, and that couldn’t be more of a good thing. Pixel art is the name of the game, and Mutant Mudds’ art design does everything in its power to both breed nostalgia and invoke awe at its simple charm all at the same time. Its visuals are particularly easy to appreciate on home consoles - the near-oxymoron of HD pixelation somehow makes things look almost unreasonably sharp, and the Mudds experience in motion on a living room TV is without a doubt the preferred way of play from a visual fidelity standpoint.
The downside is in the gameplay. Though traversal feels as finely-tuned as ever in actual execution, the foreground/background-hopping mechanic that permeates the experience is unfortunately quite muted without the presence of stereoscopic 3D to boldly promote it. Renegade Kid has come up with a clever solution, and it’s by no means broken: when the player inhabits the foreground, the background is blurred, and vice versa. It’s definitely a serviceable solution, and allows Mutant Mudds Deluxe to preserve one of the original game’s more clever ideas. That said, it’s just not as effective as it is on 3DS, and despite the blur I found myself unsure of which plane enemies were currently inhabiting, especially when particularly large swarms of them decided to show up. On top of that, as someone who leaves the 3D slider up 95% of the time for probably 95% of 3DS games, the loss is very strongly felt. Depending on your affinity for the effect, your mileage may vary.
When it comes to the Deluxe moniker, it’s definitely an indicator of new content, but may be a bit of an overstatement. The main attraction comes in the form of “ghost levels,” and though they’re reasonably fun and introduce a slew of awesome new chiptune tracks (perhaps the best thing about them), they don’t do enough to make Deluxe the definitive Mudds experience in the absence of 3D. The ghost levels, aside from their revamped thematics, feature an ammo-related gimmick where enemies are only killed temporarily, and it’s definitely a mode that will force you to re-assess your pre-existing strategy.
In the end, it will be up to the individual player – if you already played 3DS Mudds and want something new to try, the ghost-themed challenges and presence of all post-release levels from previous renditions make Deluxe an awesome package. For that player it may very well be definitive. For newcomers, though, it’s difficult to outright recommend skipping the 3D visuals on 3DS, which improve both gameplay and the overall aesthetics of the experience. Ultimately, it’s impossible to go wrong with Mutant Mudds Deluxe’s inspired retro-charm – just be sure to consider from all angles before deciding which version to buy.
This review is based on the PS3 version of the game, which was provided to us.