The biggest challenge I faced while playing Mutant Mudds Super Challenge was keeping myself from going into a frothing rage of anger.
The first proper level of MMSC is practically covered in spikes that will instantly kill you. There are precision jumps I needed to make before hovering through a corridor with spikes (death) above and below me. Sentient mud is oozing back and forth over the platform I need to land on. Gold coins are rotating deliciously close, but if I turn my course, I may run out of jetpack fuel. Oh, and if I die I have to restart the entire level all over again. I’m not a happy camper.
Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is Renegade Kid’s extreme follow up to their 2013 platformer, Mutant Mudds Deluxe. MMSC boasts a brand new escapade for the main character, Max, filled with 40 levels, five boss fights (a series first), and 20 secret characters. According to the developer, the only game mode is Super Challenge, and I believe it. Regarding the story of MMSC, there isn’t much here, which is fine, as the emphasis is definitely on gameplay. But here is basically what we’ve got: Max is sent to a rock to eliminate the new mutant Mudd that’s been spotted. That’s pretty much it, and that’s pretty much all you need, as the title will speak for itself.
From the start you’re presented with a quick epilogue level that briefly showcases some of the tricky platforming you’ll be expected to pull off throughout the adventure, eventually leading you to the central hub. The central hub is made up of two major sections: the foreground and the background (I’ll explain more later). In the foreground, the first four worlds are shown with open access to 1-1 all the way to 4-4. The only sections locked are boss rooms, titled B-1 through 4. To reach a boss room, all four levels of a respective world must first be fully completed. Each level has two water sprites that must be collected, one at a time, to finish a level. The first found through a standard run, and the second found through a special gate, usually hidden behind an obstacle or in a tricky to get to location. Additional challenges, such as collecting all 100 gold coins in each half of a level add to MMSC’s difficulty. The foreground also contains the power-up & jukebox rooms. Three power-ups are readily available: power shot, extended hover, and vertical boost. Prior editions of Mutant Mudds required the player to unlock these, but as this is the harder version of these titles, these upgrades are already unlocked. Unfortunately, you can’t get greedy and must choose the one you want. But don’t fret, this door will never lock and is always accessible from the hub world. The jukebox room contains its namesake jukebox, which plays chiptune tracks from the Mutant Mudds series as the player unlocks them in the game as giant rotating CDs. The background of the hub world is purely for the 5th world, which is only unlocked once all other levels have been beaten.
The centerpiece of everything here, of course, is the gameplay
MMSC is a platformer in the style of old-school titles like Mega Man, not Mario Bros or Super Meat Boy. I feel the need to bring up this distinction, as it is the basis of my opinion of this game, but we’ll talk about that at the end. Like Mega Man, specifically the core Mega Man titles, accurate execution of precision platforming is not only rewarded but basically the only way to clear the game. Anything less than is severely punished by death, something MMSC expects of its players, as each death is tallied on screen. Even the title menu shows this feature off, with each save file exhibiting a death counter that has available digit space for the hundred million; wonderful. Controls are extremely tight and responsive, something that is absolutely necessary for the genre, proven by a consistency in being able to walk Max up to and away from platform edges with ease. Speaking of Max, he seems to be a relatively calm guy, with his only speed being his delicate jaunt, a speed, or lack thereof, I found irritating at first, but understood as I continued playing. Each level is fairly jam-packed with spikes, enemies, spikes, moving platforms, spikes, and hidden areas and doors, oh, and more spikes. Claustrophobia may also set in once you add the fact that levels aren’t just vertical or horizontal. Most all areas require Max to jump between the foreground and background, sometimes even a back-background. A faster Max would not only be unnatural for level progression but clumsy and downright dangerous. The jetpack Max is equipped with is also responsive, but only fires once per jump, so you better use it when you mean to and let it run until you mean to turn it off. Max’s water-cannon is easy and predictable to fire and shoots farther and faster with its upgrade.
To compliment the solid gameplay, we have the beautifully simplistic pixel-art style MMSC has been known for.
The self-dubbed “12-bit” style is meant to be a blend of 8 bit and 16-bit graphics, and something I feel that is well executed. Colors are wonderfully vibrant, being perfectly chosen to represent each world’s environments. Each world is easily distinguished from one another, making them all memorable. Special worlds are typically mono-colored to look like classic Game Boy or Virtual Boy titles, which is a nice nostalgic break from the norm. Sprites have an obviously loving attention to detail compared to their small size, with their animations making every enemy and Max lively and easy to spot on the screen. The only problem with this limiting art style is the difficulty of seeing Max and friends when the action goes as far back as possible in a level, but this is something that I feel was done on purpose, as many foreground elements will hide CDs, gold coins, or spikes from time to time.
Another notable feature of MMSC is its diverse chiptune soundtrack.
Many songs are reminiscent of old school NES tracks and are just as catchy. Bleep and bloob high energy drum tracks are accentuated with driven 8-bit bass riffs, all while midi style synth leads are busy creating memorable melodies that stay in your head long after the game has been shutdown. And boy are there some tracks. Almost every stage has its own song to get stuck in your head as you jump from platform to platform. Going back to the jukebox room, you can listen to your favorite track, or favorite remix thereof, as many times you please. Collecting all of these memorable tracks is a reward of its own.
Now, with all this being said, what is my opinion of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge? Personally, I’m not a big fan, but it’s starting to grow on me a little. When I heard platforming, I was hoping for running sections with technical jumps and well-placed power-ups from stage to stage. I’m a huge fan of the classic Mario games, as well as modern platformers like Super Meat Boy, Bit Trip Runner, and Electronic Super Joy. I also was expecting an introductory level and a gradual, or at least some semblance of, difficulty curve, not a slap in the face. Basically, I was expecting a new title with speed, but I got Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, a slow continuation of Deluxe’s last levels. With that said, I think I may recommend this title to friends, but not after explaining what they should expect.
Overall, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is a very demanding platformer that rewards careful, deliberate players with gratuitous gameplay. 40 stages filled with collectibles keep replayability high, especially for die-hard fans who are veterans of the series. Tight, responsive controls, an addictive, high energy chiptune soundtrack, and a visually vibrant and attractive art style all culminate in one of the hardest platformers I’ve played this year.