Review: Mutant Mudds Deluxe takes its NES-like spirit to the Wii U

Mutant Mudds is one of those games that just belongs on Nintendo platforms. Maybe it's the referential nature of the title, which harkens back to the days of the NES, SNES, and Game Boy; or perhaps it's the unadulterated chiptuney goodness of its soundtrack, which is reminiscent of a bygone Nintendo era. Either way, this downloadable title was one of the best things to happen to the 3DS back in 2012, and now it's one of the best things to happen to the Wii U as Mutant Mudds Deluxe. Loaded with even more content than its 3DS and PC counterparts, this pixelated adventure is easier than ever to recommend, and it's a must-play for content-starved Wii U owners.

Max is just a normal nerdy kid, hanging out with his grandma and enjoying life. All of a sudden, alien creatures made of mud invade Earth. Like any good pixel-based citizen, Max takes it upon himself to save the planet from impending doom. Armed with a water cannon and water-powered jetpack, our bowl haircut-sporting protagonist sets out for his perilous quest.

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Mutant Mudds is very much a traditional 2D platformer that takes pride in punishing the player. The game starts out fairly easy, but it soon ramps up the challenge and tasks you with taking out muddy baddies, performing incredulous leaps over spikes and pitfalls, and collecting diamonds. You could argue that the game doesn't do anything crazily novel, but it doesn't have to. Mutant Mudds is a game you play because you enjoy good platformers and aren't afraid of getting your butt kicked once in a while. If you do fail at a stage, by the way, it's totally your fault, because the controls and stage designs are expertly crafted to provide an experience that just feels right.

To ease the tension a bit, checkpoints have been added to each level. In all honesty, however, I'd suggest you turn this option off. The inclusion of checkpoints in each stage makes it so that you don't get as frustrated later in the game. Unfortunately, if you leave them on, you're kind of sacrificing the blatantly challenging nature of Mutant Mudds. I'm of the mindset that there's no right way to play a game, but it almost feels as if playing with checkpoints takes away from the NES-inspired spirit of this tough little platformer.

The original Mutant Mudds featured 20 stages, each of which housed a hidden level. All 40 of these are as fun as ever on the Wii U. Additionally, the Grannie levels that were first introduced in the PC edition of Mutant Mudds can also be unlocked after clearing the original 40. These particular stages star Max's endearing grandma, and they require all of your wits and tenacity to clear. If you're anything like me, these will probably cause you to curse a few times, especially when you almost cleared a stage but screwed up by doing something stupid like landing on spikes. Admittedly, I kind of regret shouting, “Oh, b*tch!” while a woman and her daughter walked past my window. Oops!

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The Wii U version of Mutant Mudds throws in an additional set of Ghost levels for good measure. These are all remixed versions of the first 20 levels, and they're incredibly tough. Aliens appear as ethereal ghosts, so you can't actually harm them. This means that you need to employ new tactics to get around. You can also collect a special power-up for your water cannon, though ghosts will reappear a few seconds after being defeated, prompting you to make haste and act quickly. The Ghost levels are the biggest new feature to hit Mutant Mudds, and they're a total blast.

People will argue that this game was meant to be played on the 3DS. While that certainly holds some truth due to just how awesome it looks with the 3D effect turned on, I'd say Mutant Mudds fits perfectly on the Wii U. No, you don't get that sweet stereoscopic awesomeness, but you get to see this pixel-heavy platformer on your TV, and it just looks absolutely gorgeous. The colorful graphics are a wonder to behold, and if you can enjoy them on a sexy big screen TV, you really get some spectacular eye candy.

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The sound design of Mutant Mudds is just as strong as the graphics. Putting aside the fact that chiptune music is a lot of fun to listen to, the actual melodies in this game are brilliant. It's strange, but despite being a game made for modern hardware, the themes heard throughout are filled with unbridled nostalgia. I can only imagine the kinds of feelings Mutant Mudds will evoke when some kid who just played the game on his Wii U jumps right into it again when he's older and remembers the very first moments he spent with it.

If you already played some version of Mutant Mudds, it's hard to justify spending $10 for it all over again just so you can play the Ghost levels. As far as GamePad-specific features go, all you get is off-TV play, which is fine and works great. That said, if you've held out on it this long, I would strongly suggest you check out the Deluxe edition, because it's unequivocally the definitive version of the game. Ultimately, it's just truly amazing to be able to play Mutant Mudds on your TV via a Nintendo console, the way it was meant to be experienced, and the way this magical game likely would've been had it launched back in the '80s, the very era it draws its influence from.

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