K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple, stupid! At least that was what I was always told growing up. Don't outdo yourself, or you'll get overwhelmed and end up failing. I've always been a stubborn person, so I often ignored that advice and went above and beyond, making elaborate, working hydraulic backhoes rather than a wooden car, or writing books instead of reading books like everyone else. I never really understood the concept of reigning oneself in and not putting forth your best work, I was always under the impression that you should do your best. Luckily, I've grown up to find that keeping it simple can be a blessing, especially in a gaming era when 'retro' is apparently synonymous with 'good'. Few examples nail down that ideal better than Mutant Mudds Deluxe.
In Mutant Mudds Deluxe, you play as Max, a squirt-gun totin' squirt who has to protect his home from an invading race of mud monsters that crash landed via an asteroid. Naturally, mud monsters can be dissolved by water, so you're in the perfect position to establish yourself as a pint-sized hero. Out your front door you go, collecting gems and killing mud monsters in your quest to rid the world of their presence. Despite the potentially dangerous situation Max has found himself in, the delightfully retro soundtrack is incredibly upbeat and optimistic from beginning to end, and the art style is, much like everything else, incredibly simple and broad while using a saccharine pastel like an early generation SNES platform game such as Magic Boy. The graphics themselves are about as basic as can be, though the animations are pretty impressive, especially when blowing up mudds into dirty messes. I can't overstate just how much I smiled listening to that soundtrack - I'm still smiling thinking about it!
Max is equipped with a squirt gun, but he's no combat trained marine. You can't run, you can't dodge roll, and you can't perform combo attacks. All you can do is move, duck, jump, hover, and shoot. That's virtually it outside of the three power-ups you must choose between, two of which are just more effective shots and hovers, while the third is a rocket-powered double jump. Despite the very simple ability list, the level design perfectly takes advantage of what you can and cannot do to make an intuitive but thought provoking obstacle course. While Max himself is unable to do very much, one of the defining features of Mutant Mudds Deluxe is that at certain point, he can jump between the main stage, the foreground, and the background, meaning that not only do you have to pay attention to what's above and beside you, but also what's in front of and behind you, effectively turning a decidedly 2D rendered game into a form of pseudo 3D gameplay, much like LittleBigPlanet.
To be honest, however, this simplicity is also Mutant Mudds Deluxe's greatest weakness. The levels are designed to be straightforward, but it's often a little too easy. Each stage has three goals: completion, collection of 100 gems, and the completion of a hidden, alternate path. I was able to complete every one of the first 16 levels with all 100 gems each on my first play through, and it only took a little over an hour to do so. There's a lot to be said for simplicity, but sometimes it goes a little too far, and despite how simple yet fun Mutant Mudds Deluxe is, I can't help but feel disappointed.
The good news is that that's only half of what the game has to offer. Once you've collected all 1600 gems from the first 16 stages, you unlock 4 space stages as well as a portal to an alternate ghost world exclusive to the WiiU version of Mutant Mudds, and this is where the real challenge emerges. The final space levels are where the difficulty spikes near to the point of frustration, and the ghost levels make you re-learn how to play Mutant Mudds Deluxe by throwing out all you thought you knew about killing mudds. In the ghost world, you can't re-kill the mudds unless you get a special ectoplasmic blast for your water gun (which is, naturally, in limited supply), and even if you do manage to kill them again, they come back. This means that you're mostly going to be playing to avoid them rather than kill or eradicate them. Each of these ghost stages is loosely based on the normal world equivalent, but much like New Super Luigi U, they feature some significant changes to make them immensely more difficult, in addition to the unkillable ghost mudds.
Whether you're looking for a quick distraction from other games, love retro gaming, or are just begging for something to play on the rather disappointing WiiU library, I recommend Mutant Mudds Deluxe. It's only $9.99 and is worth 3-5 hours of cheery, upbeat, simple gameplay. It's short, it's relatively easy, but that doesn't stop it from being a fun callback to simpler times!
This review is based on a digital copy of Mutant Mudds Deluxe for the Nintendo WiiU.