What if indie death fencing sensation Nidhogg was actually a cute kids game? Replace the deadly fencers with octopuses and let them battle with their tentacle legs to deliver a present to a birthday party instead of self-sacrifice to a deity and you have Muddledash. It is superb, barmy, addictive and hilarious.
I’ve been heavy-handed with the Nidhogg comparison but Muddledash takes a few gameplay mechanics from that game and places it in a textured and tactile world of colour and goo. Playing in groups of 2-4, you’ll need to traverse an obstacle course of jumps, cogs, slides, climbs and falls to bring a birthday present to your friend. The problem is – no one else has bought a present and only the gift bringing octopus can enter the party with dignity!
What ensues is a beautiful game of cat and mouse tactics. If you grab the present and run – you’ll need to be quick but defensive to fend off the other plays you’ll kick the present from your grasp with their tentacle legs. If you are in the chasing pack you’ll need to work out when and where to attack either with yourself or the environment around you.
Where Muddledash differs from games like Micro Machines or Speedrunners is that if you fall behind on the obstacle course to the party, you are not out of the game. You simply respawn at the next flat piece of land. That often means you’ll respawn ahead of the player with the present and that can often be an advantage. It is a genuine tactic to run the other way when you lose touch with the leader and respawn to attack. This is why I mention Nidhogg as its the only other game I can think of where this tactic is so valid, satisfying and laugh out loud funny when you turn the tables by being ‘bad at the game’… or so says the loser playing properly. This also means no one is ever truly out of the game for winning and that keeps the chaos rolling.
It’s not just the simple but epic gameplay where Muddledash excels. The colourful design reminds me of playdough and Plasticine. The sound effects also bring the world to life as the world sounds squidgy, fluffy, bouncy and sticky all the time. It sounds strange to call such a game textured but it adds so much to the game. The soundtrack is less memorable but upbeat in a non-cheesy and irritating way.
Whilst levels are procedurally generated, it is done so in obstacle blocks. Whilst you may not run the same colour palette and selection twice, you will recognise segments and over time that becomes helpful to know when to defend and attack. As always with this design principle, I’d love the option to save levels that worked really well but to be honest I haven’t come across a level that didn’t. The only downside I can possibly say is that you will need friends – there are no AI bots.
(PC version bought and tested. Also available on Switch.)
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