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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Mutant Mudds Super Challenge

Hey! This looks familiar!
I am a huge fan of Mutant Mudds. The platformer emerged on the scene during a retail lull for the 3DS, and continued to wow with periodic updates, resulting in an 80-level gauntlet of tough, precise platforming.

This is not a review of Mutant Mudds. This is a review of Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, a direct sequel with a name that aptly summarizes its content. It's a super challenge.

PROS:

-Taking all the elements from the previous title and mashing them together, Super Challenge is a culmination of all that you love- and hate- about the original.

-Remixed musical and aesthetic themes make the game feel more unique and like a true sequel, rather than a reuse of assets

-While harder, Super Challenge features the most unique and brilliant level design yet, a welcome and exciting prospect for the future of the franchise.

CONS:

-Super Challenge leans heavily on its least predictable elements in order to create difficulty spikes, namely, ice traction and bomb pigs.

-Boss fights, one of the central new features of the game, are unfortunately its weakest, as well.

THOUGHTS:

Yes, it's true! Mutant Mudds, an already difficult title, has reached new heights in Super Challenge. While this is sometimes accompanied by the absolute best the series has to offer in terms of music and level design, there's a number of times where it is the result of very, very precise inputs and timing that are easily flubbed. Worse, however, are the moments that seem entirely beyond your control- moments more than often punctuated by off-screen shenanigans or slippery platforming elements that go against the fundamentals of the title.

While Mutant Mudds demands a thoughtful approach to each of its platforming challenges, it is also timed, which means there is a certain level of pressure to the whole thing. However, even newcomers or those not entirely prepared for a world of pain can turn on checkpoints, which refill health halfway through the level and allow one to continue forward. This turns Mutant Mudds from an excruciating experience into a simple test of patience, and that can be good for those inclined to damage property.

While its level design is often exhausting and quite clever, there are moments where the game falters. Its over-reliance on ice traction feels a bit lazy, even if the numerous "secret" paths attempt to soften these moments. Ice traction, especially at its most frantic and pressured applications, feels too imprecise in opposition with the foundations of Mutant Mudds mechanics. Likewise, there are several specific circumstances in which obstacles with preset patterns are placed just off-screen, resulting in a cheap hit or two.

However, Super Challenge's weakest area has to be its most distinguishing trait from the previous title- its boss fights. While those that are focused primarily around platforming can be satisfying (the Ghost-themed World 3 boss and certain aspects the World 5 boss, for example), the rest are heavily reliant on overwhelming elements that feel randomized, rather than in set order. While this worked in Renegade Kid's previous boss-oriented ordeal, Xeodrifter, it isn't as streamlined here because of the clunkier movement and shooting mechanics. Overall, it feels too jumbled and unpolished, especially in contrast with the rest of the title. It is here, and in the aforementioned tricky platforming portions, that the game can truly test your patience- part of the reason this review has taken me so long to write. However, that's not to say Super Challenge is a bad game, or even mediocre. It excels in its goal, which is to test your patience as much as possible.

Verdict: While Mutant Mudds' platforming has never been more unique and frustrating as in Super Challenge, it also has its fair share of aspects that don't reach the satisfying heights of the previous title. This is NOT the entry for beginners, even with its generous checkpoint system, but it does offer a substantial- if not extremely demanding- playtime.

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