Mutant Mudds on 3DS: Finding depth in a flat world

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Mutant Mudds 3DS
In the age of 3D movies and eye-popping video game graphics, literal depth has become a bit of a bullet point, a "me too." But it's said that great things are born of limitations, namely in the art world. Mutant Mudds, a 3D-meets-2D platformer by Renegade Kid for the 3DS, somehow squeezes blood from a stone. This game on Nintendo's newest handheld is 3D all right, but on a 2D plane.

Mutant Mudds puts players in the shoes of a blond-haired nerd that, when a meteor crashes into Earth and unleashes an army of alien mud creatures, dons a water gun and bubble-powered jet pack to blast the extraterrestrial grime away. That's about as much exposition as you'll get from Mutant Mudds, and in the days that this game hearkens back to, that's all you ever needed. Austin, Texas-based Renegade Kid's first game on the eShop is a celebration of all things retro in gaming.
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However, it's also an answer to a question that, in most 2D platform games, is never even asked: "Hey, what's back there?" The backgrounds in most classic 2D games (i.e. Sonic and Mario) are slightly animated, but largely static additions. In Mutant Mudds, they're a vital part of the play hook. Whenever the little kid jumps from an orange platform, he'll be launched into the background. Generally, there are more tokens to collect back there and enemies to wash away, and the same goes for the foreground.

Yes, some orange platforms launch little four-eyes into the foreground of each level, revealing even more secrets or paths to the end of each level. In this regard, the key to finding the end marker of each level within the time limit isn't simply running toward the right, but toward (and away from) the player. That said, players will definitely want to push the 3D slider on the 3DS way up when playing Mutant Mudds.
Mutant Mudds
Mutant Mudds addresses nearly every trope of the original Nintendo and Sega days, like a sunny plains level, underground cave levels, disappearing platforms and icy, slippery terrain. Another staple of retro gaming that Renegade Kid couldn't seem to pull itself away from is difficulty. Games back in the day were downright throw-my-controller-in-a-blind-rage hard, and Mutant Mudds gets this writer so close to the boiling point before the reminder that the system is the controller comes back.

There's nothing wrong with a little challenge. In fact, more games should give gamers a fight these days. But when each stage is designed to be finished within a few minutes (thank heaven--this is a portable game, after all), death by spiky pitfall or losing the third heart for the umpteenth time is enough to rage on the morning train into work. And that's just embarrassing.
Mutant Mudds lava stage
That said, it's tough to stay angry at Mutant Mudds too long, especially with a pair of headphones blocking everything else out but a symphony of bleeps and boops. Again, a mastery of limitations creates something impressive, and there was no better time for video game music than way back when. Call it rosy-colored glasses all you want, but few tracks in games today sound as inspired as those of old.

Mutant Mudds is a brilliant platform game that's a clever use of Nintendo's technology that rarely gets old. However, these charms are bound to get lost among the gamers born in the Call of Duty era, unless you've raised them well, moms and dads. But there's more here than just pangs of nostalgia. When considering the limitations Renegade placed on itself, there's more depth--both literal and implied--behind Mutant Mudds than what the 3D slider reveals, and that's well worth the $8.99 price tag.

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Have you tried Mutant Mudds on your 3DS yet? Do you think there's still room for 2D platform games among the legions of shooters, casual games and MMOs? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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