Mute Crimson+ is a 2D action platformer available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is the first release from Iced Lizard Games, a two-man operation consisting of Patrick Derosby (programming and design) and Thomas Smith (art and sound). It is a remake of the original Mute Crimson, a title developed by Derosby alone for the Xbox Live Indie Games platform. Like many 2D platformers, Mute Crimson+ has a self-consciously Retraux style reminiscent of The 8-bit Era of Console Video Games - in fact, the game's soundtrack was deliberately designed to be compatible with the NES sound chip. In terms of gameplay, obvious influences include not only Ninja Gaiden (which also features a ninja protagonist, wall-climbing, and double-jumping) but also classic Mega Man (with the emphasis on "tough but fair" obstacle-based platforming challenges) and Super Meat Boy (from which it also borrows the bloody death animations). The most distinctive aspect of the graphical presentation other than the overall Retraux look is the "carefully limited" colour palette: four-tone classic Game Boy-style greyscale with the addition of a fifth colour for contrast: shockingly bright red, which is used for anything that can kill you - enemy or environmental hazard alike. This distinctive colour palette is also called Mute Crimson, thus lending its name to the game itself.
The story is a classic Excuse Plot typical of the 8-bit era - the stoic Ninja is meditating in his hideout in the middle of the peaceful city he calls home, until it is beset by undead and hellish monsters who quickly overpower the police and lay everything to waste. Ninja decides to stop the problem at the source, vowing to take down whomever sent this invasion force in the first place, but he has no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes - through an ancient forest, a vast network of caves, a hidden enemy laboratory, a secret base on the moon, and finally the depths of an eerie hell dimension.
The gameplay is based around Ninja's two primary powers - a fixed-height double-jump and the swing of his katana - and his means of traversing the many obstacles he encounters, primarily climbing up (and down) walls and grabbing hold of overhead monkey bars. There are no powerups or ranged attacks. Each new world introduces a new mechanic which becomes the thematic platforming obstacle for that world - every level is built around figuring out a new way to overcome that obstacle. Usually, these mechanics carry over to future worlds, even as they take a backseat to newly-introduced ones, which gradually increases the complexity and the difficulty of the gameplay. The level design and mechanics are extremely similar to the original Mute Crimson, despite the completely revamped look and sound of the game, although a new, seventh world (the original had six), complete with a new boss, has been added.
The game was submitted for approval on Steam Greenlight in April of 2015, and was formally Greenlit in June. It was released on August 13, 2015, and can be found right here, along with the soundtrack for the game as a DLC download.
Mute Crimson+ contains examples of:
- Antepiece: Given that this game flouts its "tough but fair" credentials, it should come as no surprise that these feature prominently. Indeed, in most cases, the whole first level of a world is effectively an antepiece for the world as a whole: it introduces the new theme mechanic for the world in a relatively safe environment before piling on the platforming challenges in later levels.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- If you score the third and winning hit against any boss, you become invincible and cannot die, even if you fall down the Bottomless Pit or into the lava.
- Boss Arena Urgency: After scoring two hits against the Caves boss, King Eye, the lava in the arena will begin to rise high enough to submerge the platforms (formerly) suspended above it, forcing you to score the third hit before you run out of ground to stand on.
- Boss Rush: An optional gameplay mode. Successful completion will earn you a Steam achievement.
- Bottomless Pits: It wouldn't be a platformer without them.
- Checkpoint Starvation: You have the option to remove all checkpoints from the game. In addition, certain levels (usually, though not always, short ones with high-precision platforming elements) have no checkpoints - you must complete everything in one shot. (In the "Doom Timer" mode, where you must complete an entire level within a strict deadline - or die trying - the checkpoints are automatically removed as a matter of course.)
- Convection Schmonvection: There are multiple levels where lava is chasing after you, but it never hurts you unless it touches you directly.
- Cutscene: Like Ninja Gaiden, this game tells its story exclusively through the use of cutscenes - typically, one before and one after each boss. There is no dialogue or narration outside these cutscenes, and (following your first playthrough) you have the option to turn them off entirely (they're skippable even on the initial playthrough, however).
- Death from Above: The hitbox of Ninja's katana is such that you can effectively swing your sword at enemies while jumping on them and score a hit, as long as you time it right.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The standard "Adventure" mode has unlimited lives.
- Deliberately Monochrome: A classic example of the "limited palette" variation of this trope. The red is quite prominent (more so in later levels, naturally, as there's more that can kill you). A minor example additionally exists in the checkpoint - a sword which changes from silver to gold upon being reached. It's the only thing anywhere in the entire game that isn't some combination of black, white, or red.
- Note that you can change the "shock" colour from red to another brightly saturated colour in the options menu (since many colour-blind people can't see red very well).
- Disc-One Final Boss: The Demon (given the retronym "True Demon"), the Final Boss from the original game, becomes this, with the addition of the seventh, or "Dark", world, with a new Final Boss.
- Elaborate Underground Base: World 4, "Lab". Despite the name, there doesn't seem to be very much science going on here.
- Enemy Roll Call: Makes up almost the entirety of the end credits, since only two people worked on this game, and they share a title card which is only briefly onscreen before moving onto the roll call. The characters are even presented with "Starring...", enabling the Final Boss, The Wall, to get an And Starring designation.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: As an early post-release patch to the game, a sparkling effect was added to Ninja's double-jump to visually differentiate it from his standard jump (or fall from a ledge).
- Final Boss, New Dimension: World 6, "Portal", and World 7, "Dark". This is because World 7 was created for Mute Crimson+, meaning that World 6 was the original final world - but once you've gone to a hell dimension to confront the final boss, where can you go from there? (The only answer is even deeper into that hell dimension.)
- Fireballs: Two variants:
- The first comes from a fireball turret (which shot arrows in the original game): these travel across the screen until hitting an object, at which point they dissipate (and kill whatever they've hit).
- The second is fired by the serpentine "magician" enemies (and also the Computer boss), which is aimed at your location at the moment of fire, but does not home in on you. However, it cannot be blocked by any other objects, travelling across the screen until leaving it.
- Flash of Pain: For bosses only (as they're the only enemies who aren't killed in one hit), to denote their Mercy Invincibility. This is always accompanied by the boss launching into an attack cycle, whose end coincides with them becoming vulnerable again.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: A common environmental hazard in later levels. One of which is even called "I Hate Lasers", to drive the point home.
- Giant Squid: The first boss - and the leader of the invading force attacking Ninja's home city - is a giant, floating squid (who is also capable of speech, because why not?). You encounter him again - in cyborg form, since you sliced him in half the first time around - much later in the game.
- Gravity Screw: A key mechanic in later levels. When Ninja traverses a "gate" (for lack of a better word), the gravity can pull him in any of the four cardinal directions. How intensely the gravity pulls him varies depending on the level - if gravity is pulling him to the right, for example, sometimes he can still run to the left (albeit much more slowly than usual), and sometimes running to the left will only keep him from slipping ever-further to the right. Sometimes upward gravity will literally pull Ninja up; sometimes it'll merely keep him hovering in place; other times it'll only give him a higher jump. The change in gravity affects the entire environment, including enemies and stalactites.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Ninja wields a katana, and has no other means of attacking enemies.
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Ninja has no name other than Ninja. The narrator introduces him only as "Ninja", all of the enemies he interacts with call him "Ninja", and even the end credits label him only as "Ninja". This appears to be true of every enemy in the game, in fact, but it's most obvious with Ninja.
- Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: A common hazard from the mid-game on. Often combined with the gravity-changing mechanic (see Gravity Screw) for additional platforming challenges, to great effect.
- Intentional Engrish for Funny: As demonstrated in the page quote above, all dialogue in the game's cutscenes is rendered in Engrish. This is contrasted with the grammatical English in the game's menus, end credits, developer messages, and even in the text in the background art and in the images of the cutscenes themselves.
- It's Up to You: Ninja doesn't hesitate to take on the entire invading force - and then hunt down the ones who sent it in the first place. A good thing, too, because it's not as if anyone else can.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Hey, Ninja is a ninja. What sword did you think he would be wielding, a cutlass?
- King Mook: The boss of World 3 is appropriately named "King Eye" - he's naturally a Flunky Boss as well, sending out standard Eye enemies to chase you down.
- The Lost Woods: World 2, "Forest". Not particularly spooky or creepy, but quite claustrophobic - many levels seem to take place inside trees.
- Nintendo Hard: Subverted - this game actually plays fair. It's not an easy game, but it never cheats or pulls any fast ones on the player.
- One-Hit Point Wonder: Ninja dies instantly if he touches any enemy or hazard. However, all enemies (except bosses) are also felled with only one strike from Ninja's katana - and amusingly, they are also vulnerable to environmental hazards. (Bosses, as is standard for platformers, take three hits to kill - except for the Final Boss, who takes five hits.)
- Platform Game
- Punch-Clock Villain: The Moth would much rather just play a card game than actually fight - Ninja has to convince her he won't do anything else before she (reluctantly) agrees. (Heartbreakingly, when you kill her, she drops a deck of cards as part of her death animation.) She's also the only boss with any dialogue in the cutscene following her defeat, twisting the knife even further. But don't worry - she comes back in spirit form and rescues Ninja in the end!
- Red Filter of Doom: This is the best way to describe the use of the colour red in the game. Here, the environment as a whole doesn't turn red, just the things that can kill you - with a handful of exceptions: enemy blood, background objects, and the Wall itself, which is (mostly) red but can't damage you directly.
- Retraux: The sound is 100% authentic to the NES experience, but (as with many other "retro" games, such as Shovel Knight) the graphics and the gameplay "cheat" things a little, though still holding true to the spirit if not the letter of the 8-bit era's aesthetic.
- Skyscraper City: World 1, "City".
- Space Zone: World 5, "Moon".
- Spikes of Doom: Proper spikes are actually quite rare, and limited to world 4 (the Lab) exclusively. However, tentacles protruding from the walls, ceilings, and floors (which wriggle more energetically the closer you get to them) are ubiquitous throughout the game, and are effectively spikes for gameplay purposes.
- Stalactite Spite: Interestingly, they're the only environmental hazard affected by Gravity Screw, so they'll fall more slowly than they otherwise would when upward gravity is in effect - which you can (and will) use to your advantage.
- Underground Level: World 3, "Cavern".
- Updated Re-release: The original Mute Crimson (referred to in-game as Mute Crimson Classic) is included as part of this game; a few bells and whistles are added in that many of the features available for play with Mute Crimson+ also work with Mute Crimson Classic. (Completing the game also earns you a Steam achievement.) However, in all other ways it's a straight port of the original XBLIG version, which was done deliberately as that platform is shutting down in 2017, and Iced Lizard Games wanted to preserve the original game in amber, as it were.
- Video Game Remake: Of Mute Crimson for XBLIG, released in 2011.
The original Mute Crimson contains examples of:
- Deliberately Monochrome: The original Mute Crimson colour scheme was just three colours: black, white, and red - there wasn't even any greyscale.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Magician enemy in the original game is a monkey. For whatever reason, it was changed to a snake in Mute Crimson+.
- Jungle Japes: World 2 was a jungle, not a forest, in the original game, which better explains both the wind mechanic (presumed to allude to tropical winds such as monsoons or typhoons) and the Moth boss (forests have moths, too, but they're more associated with jungles in the popular imagination).