In some ways, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is like a full sequel to Mutant Mudds. Certainly, there are many improved elements: secrets have been added, the settings are new, and bosses make a noteworthy appearance. Yet in other ways, the game is more like a glorified DLC pack: there are no new enemies, abilities or obstacles. This is the original Mutant Mudds through and through, just with a new set of levels and the difficulty ratcheted up to eleven.
I love it.
Being more of the same is not a bad thing in this case. Mutant Mudds was a gorgeous game; there is no shortage of 2D indie platformers that make use of a pixel art style, but Mutant Mudds managed to stand out from the pack and Super Challenge is no different. The game is clean, sharp, and colorful. The new environments (from Jungles to Clouds to Ice) look great, and characters/enemies showcase character while staying consistent with each other. The lack of new enemy designs is rather disappointing for veterans of the series, and some of the environments (especially the V-Land and G-Land levels) feel a bit too familiar. Still; this was never meant to be a full sequel, and it is a mighty fine looking game either way.
Music follows a similar path. The same composer returns to work on Super Challenge, and once again a great set of chiptunes is included. Some of these are old or remixed, but many are new. The songs do a great job of keeping you engaged and ready to keep playing, even as you die over and over again. That said, I didn’t feel like the new songs were quite as memorable as the last game’s.
But of course, the real draw of a 2D platformer is the gameplay, and that is where Mutant Mudds has always shined. The controls are pitch-perfect as ever: jumping, walking, hovering with your jetpack, and shooting always feels entirely in your control. In a given level, your goal is to collect all one hundred gems and make it to the end. Along the way you will encounter enemies, spikes, and tricky jumps.
From the hub map, you can advance through the various stages. Four levels of the first four worlds are open right from the start, and by beating the eight levels in each world (and collecting every gem in those levels) you open the world’s boss. By beating that boss, you open a level in the final world. Every level includes 100 gems to collect, many of which are hidden in secret passages in walls – visual cues will hint at these secrets. Bonus CDs are present also, which let you listen to the game’s music from the hub. Throw in some secret characters to discover, and there is quite a lot to do in Mutant Mudds Super Challenge.
There is also an additional stage available in every level, which you need to beat (and collect all the gems in) to open the world’s boss. You can only access these levels if you equip the appropriate power-up. Speaking of: there are power-ups. You can use one of three at a time – one that lets your gun shoot farther, one that lets you hover longer, and one that shoots you high into the air.
Fascinatingly, the game does not go down the path frequently traversed by the best platformers: it does not base levels around/mix up gameplay with distinct gameplay styles. The same enemies and obstacles are used intermittently throughout the whole game, with the only difference being in how each level’s layout combines these elements. That makes it all the more impressive that the game is addicting and enrapturing all the way through based purely off the level design.
The game is really well designed too! That often-desired and rarely-achieved goal of all platformers, to be challenging yet fair, is accomplished in every level of Super Challenge with apparent ease. I died during most levels many times, and in some cases levels took me between thirty minutes to an hour, yet I never got frustrated. Make no mistake: this experience deserves the title of “Super Challenge”, and most players will consider the game quite difficult.
But it’s not frustrating, and that really is key. Every time I died, it was my fault, no question. I just had to analyze how to better tackle a situation without getting hit, so I could get farther into the level without dying. Then there’s a new challenge, and you slowly master that one, and the process repeats until you hit a checkpoint. Replaying levels is fascinating, because what seemed an insurmountable challenge just an hour or two before is now accomplished with relative ease because of how much you had to practice every little challenge and moment within them.
The smart use of checkpoints helps keep the game from becoming frustrating; there’s a perfect length between them. They are not so frequent that you lose the sense of tension and fear of loss when taking on challenges, but neither are they infrequent enough that you get angry about how much progress you have lost.
Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be given to the bosses. I didn’t find myself much enjoying most of them; some of them had attacks and routines that required at least some luck to beat. The bosses were the only point where I felt I wasn’t totally in control of my own destiny, and that the game was being a bit unfair. That said, they are beatable, and quite satisfying to defeat. The third boss was especially good.
Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is, for better or worse, more of the same – just a bit harder. If you enjoyed the original Mutant Mudds and don’t mind heavy difficulty right out of the gate (and some frustrating boss battles), Super Challenge is for you. If you didn’t enjoy Mutant Mudds, this won’t change your mind. And if you haven’t played the original, you definitely want to start there instead – seriously, this game is hard. In the end, Super Challenge is a brilliant title that, despite its lack of new additions and frustrating bosses, continues the series’ reputation as a shining example of pitch-perfect platforming mechanics and design. If you feel like dying and loving every minute of it, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is for you.