Firing up Mutant Mudds transports us to the 80s, back when the Nintendo Entertainment System was king. Renegade Kid's wonderful throwback rekindles fond memories of beating quality 8-bit titles, and also blowing into the bottom of cartridges like mad to clear the dust.
Thankfully, you won't risk getting an asthma attack with Mudds, since it's easily accessible via the 3DS eShop, and like many classic games it emulates, just as tough.
This 2D gem casts you as Max, a dorky youngster who leaves the confines of his home (and his grandma) to battle a bunch of nasty aliens threatening to destroy the planet.
It's classic side-scrolling bliss, as you platform hop across spikes, navigate your way past fireballs and quickly avoid getting crushed by gigantic stones, shooting bad guys with Max's water cannon and hovering for brief periods of time with his H2O powered jetpack.
All the while, it's in your best interest to grab as many Golden Diamonds as possible, 100 in each of the game's 40 stages. The more loot you collect, the easier it'll be to purchase one of three upgrades, which include extended hovering ability and a more powerful cannon blast.
Taking all of this into account, the game looks deceptively simple, but packs a mean punch to the gonads. We'd enter a stage thinking "we got this", only to die halfway through and restart at the beginning. A ton of patience and skill (and learning from our mistakes) helped see us through, but some levels took upwards of 20 tries to complete.
Thankfully, the controls couldn't be simpler. What's more, the developers did an outstanding job making the d-pad/Circle Pad and face buttons work as good as possible. Max literally stops on a dime.
What's especially interesting about Mudds is the ability to travel between three planes by walking onto specially marked platforms, which transport Max into the foreground and background. Not only does this look cool in stereoscopic 3D, but it also gives you the chance to pick up more Golden Diamonds. Definitely a nice touch, and one of the game's biggest selling points.
Want another? How about the catchy chiptunes music? What a great soundtrack. Again, like the rest of the package, it transports us to our childhoods and rivals anything we've heard on the NES.
On the downside, you can only use one power-up at a time, and acquiring them all will take a while; you need these to unlock the bonus levels.
We also have a love/hate relationship with the game's timer, which constantly ticks away with each level. The fact that Renegade Kid forces us to run through a stage before it reaches zero is fine, but no online leaderboard to post our best times? Seems like a wasted opportunity.
In the grand scheme of things, though, none of those complaints should prevent you from downloading Mutant Mudds. This is yet another outstanding addition to the 3DS eShop, and the old school presentation and enjoyable gameplay more than justifies the $8.99 asking price. One of the best games we've had the privilege of playing on Nintendo's handheld.
Review code provided by Renegade Kid
What's Hot: NES inspired graphics and music, traditional platforming with a cool twist, collecting all the Golden Diamonds, Game Boy and Virtual Boy inspired levels.
What's Not: No online leaderboard, you can only use one upgrade at a time.