Let\’s make a sequel: Mutant Mudds 2
Many of you out there would agree that there are a vast number of games that did not live up to expectations. For whatever the reason, whether through bad game design or the developer playing it safe, some games just fall short of greatness. In this new series, I’ll select a game, summarize my opinion on it and discuss how I think a sequel should be handled. Obviously I am no designer, so this is coming from a fan that wants to see these games achieve their true potential. My first topic is Mutant Mudds, a delightful side-scroller available on the Nintendo 3DS’ eshop.
Renegade Kid has been known to make excellent first person shooters on the DS, with games like Moon and Dementium, so when they announced a retro style shooter for the 3DS eshop, it turned quite a few heads. Some feared if a developer known for FPS’ could translate that talent to a platformer, while others could not wait to get their hands on it. Personally, I was excited because of the game itself, and not because of the developer.
I downloaded it after hearing mixed opinions and I am happy to announce that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. I collected all the Water Sprites, found all the secret levels and did it all over again with the new selectable character. With that said, I could not help but feel Mutant Mudds did not come close to its true potential.
The story reminds me of Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the SNES in that it is quirky and deals with an invasion. The game starts with Max and his grandma playing 3DS when a breaking newscast report alien mud creatures has taken over. Naturally, it is entirely up to a young boy instead of the army or Spiderman.
The graphics are charming and crisp. Everything from the enemies to the environment is well detailed, colorful and easy to determine what each object or character is. The 3D effect is put to good use as the game can jump to the foreground or background. With this mechanic, an item or doorway could be hidden behind something in the foreground. The controls are tight and responsive, albeit restrictive. Max can only shoot straight ahead while standing or crouching, and can only walk. Surprisingly, the game does not exploit this to make a cheap challenge akin to Castlevania on the NES. The game is designed around these control limitations to give the play a genuine fair challenge.
While there is nothing wrong with the core gameplay and level design, it feels too safe and that the developers did not want to delve further into new territory. While each level is challenging, there is nothing that really stands out. Each zone has their own style and theme, but mechanics on the final stage are essentially introduced on the first level, with some exceptions like certain enemies. Speaking of which, this game features three powerups, and only one can be equipped at a time. Needless to say, variety is not a strong suit of Mutant Mudds.
This is where I step in and say what I want for Mutant Mudds 2 if it ever starts development. The biggest thing I want is variety. Looking at classic side-scrollers like Mega Man or Contra, every level has a unique twist or challenge exclusive to that level. Mastering one stage in Mega Man does not mean you can beat any level with ease. Mutant Mudds by contrast keeps the tricks in short supply with no truly memorable sequences. For example, Max features a jetpack that allows him to hover in air for a short time, why not include some shoot-‘em-up stages like R-Type or UN Squadron? Another thing that I could not helped be shocked at was the lack of bosses. Boss battles can offer some of the most breathtaking moments in video games, and this game could have had great encounters. Mud monsters three screens high, or enemies in the background that shoots out towards the screen while you dodge and shoot at the background. I know that not every game needs bosses, but this felt like a missed opportunity that could have shaken up the formula.
I am fine with Max only being able to shoot in one direction, but imagine having enemies with patterns more complex then moving back and forth across one platform. Some enemies may fly and shoot downwards and others have a shield, but they all follow the same movement pattern. Other games in the genre include enemies that react to your position and fire according, or enemies that can track and hom in on your position. For the sequel, I would like to see better enemy A.I., variety in their movement system and if needed, the ability to shoot in multiple directions to better equip the player in the bump up of challenge.
I know it is natural for a gamer to give their opinion on how they would improve on a game by saying what it is missing or how a particular mechanic did not work. I try to avoid falling in that group and often attempt to take a game for what it is and how it is designed. Regardless, Mutant Mudds was a game that no matter how much I enjoyed it, I could not help but feel it should have been so much more. There is potential for a truly remarkable series here and I can only wish Renegade Kid will continue this franchise and try to make a better product ten times over. For a first game in a new downloadable IP, it is not bad, and I recommend it to any lovers of side scrolling shooters, but if they want to continue with this game, I pray they can do better.