Thursday, November 1

Review: Mutant Football League [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While I’m not generally a fan of traditional sports games like Madden, I’ve always had a soft spot for more off-center or action-oriented arcade takes on sports. In the case of football specifically I always had a good time with the hard-hitting NFL Blitz and the mechanized mayhem of Cyberball in the arcades but my favorite was on consoles in the form of Mutant League Football. Turning up the crazy to 11 and setting the stage for outright killing members of the other team and watching people get wiped out by on-field hazards just made me smile. The news that a new title rolling with the spirit of that game was being made was very exciting and now we have Mutant Football League: Dynasty Edition on the Switch.


For the most part gameplay is everything you’d wish for and a bit more in an arcade-style football experience. On both offense and defense you’ll quickly run through your team’s various formations and then plays, setting up for the pass, the run, of leaving your options more open and then setting things into motion. On offense you’ll control whoever has the ball, and you’ll have some moves at your disposal including a dive, stiff-arm, and spin for trying to roll out of a tackle. On defense you’ll be able to switch around which player you control to keep as involved in the action as you want to be, either trying to sack the quarterback, break up a running play, or stay tight on a receiver trying to get an interception. As you’d expect all of the play is discussed and broken down by the announcers, just you’ve never heard commentary like this before.


With the pretty normal stuff out of the we can now cover how the Mutant League rolls, and to a degree it involves a fair amount of strategy which is what I love. Each team’s field will have a number of hazards on it and these are great to utilize when trying to either trip up the other team on fielding a kick or trying to lose your pursuers when running with the ball. You’ll need to make smart use of your team’s signature Dirty Tricks plays as well each half, picking the best time on offense or defense to try to turn things to your advantage. These all vary pretty widely in effect so you’ll need to experiment, but they range from making one of your players massive or relatively invulnerable, to bribing (or killing) the ref, to making a throw that will kill any opposing players it hits along its trajectory, and much more. These can be both thrilling and infuriating depending on whether you’re making use of them or having them used on you. Keep in mind that depending on what level of carnage has been set that past eliminating your opponent’s star players if you’re able to wipe out enough of their roster you can win the game through dirtier means.


Where arcade-style games of this sort tend to show their limits is in variety past the on-field action but Mutant Football League has really stepped up to the plate to try to deliver an experience to suit all tastes. You can play through Exhibition, Playoff, and Season modes as you’d expect but for people who like to dabble more on the management and team-building end there’s also a Dynasty mode which will challenge you to work from the ground up to take your franchise to greatness through being smart off the field as well. Online play is supported, and seems to work reasonably well, but whether or not it will sustain people to play against on your schedule will always be a fair question. Though I’ve not personally had the game lock up on me through quite a number of games in different modes I’ve seen reports of some issues people have had, so take that as you will in your consideration, though I’m sure if there’s an issue it will be addressed by the developer.


While I was nervous about Mutant Football League, wondering if its style of play would still work today, I’m happy to report that it has managed to capture pretty well everything I love about arcade-style football and wrapped it up in violent weirdness. With each team having its own Dirty Tricks that continued to surprise me, different on-field hazards to contend with, and a surprisingly deep number of available formations and plays it has actually done solid work in moving much closer to the depth of a series like Madden than I would have expected. Certainly the included Dynasty mode underlines that commitment as well, and expands the appeal of the game to people who enjoy the management end of things on top of the action. Mutant Football League is the only football option currently on the Switch but I’m happy to say it doesn’t take the position at the top of the non-pile only by default. While it may have some rough edges it is a satisfying game that should offer a fair amount of mileage and it absolutely makes me ask the question: Now when do we get Mutant Hockey League?!?!


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Satisfying hard-hitting arcade-style football
  • On-field hazards, Dirty Trick plays, and plenty of late hitting to cripple other players make for surprises and mayhem
  • On top of the normal Exhibition, Playoff, and Season modes people who enjoy managing should appreciate the included Dynasty mode

Cons:
  • For football purists and Madden fans this may be too low-brow to enjoy
  • Its looks and presentation are good but have some rough edges in spots
  • Online play works and is viable but long-term availability will likely be a crapshoot