The first thing that crossed my mind when I saw this game was, “Alright, I immediately have to Google Ex-Mutants and read about who got sued attempting to make a parody X-Men video game”, only to later find out that it was indeed a comic book series. I never heard about it prior to finding this game and I only found scant information on the series, other than it endured severe financial turmoil. Ex-Mutants was created by David Lawrence with the art handled by Ron Lim, whose work can be seen in the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog series. He’s also done Infinity War, Avengers Next and the Fantasic Five. I tried to dig up as much information as I could to try and get the know the series a little bit before I played the video game, but the only thing I found was an interview with Lawerence discussing the turmoil behind the publication of Ex-Mutants,leading the series to bounce around from two publishers and groups of editors working under the same umbrella (Eternity Comics, Amazing Comics), but a failure to work under his own circumstances, answering to two different groups of editors seemed to doom the comic form flourishing. Malibu comics acquired Ex-Mutants and the series was revamped in a style more suitable for the 90’s, but it never really caught on. Malibu comics was purchased by Marvel in 1997 following declining sales, so these characters are owned by Marvel, though it may not be likely that after 18 years, anything significant could be done with them. This game that exists is based off the Malibu Comics version of the series.
GRAPHICS: As Sega Genesis platformers go, Ex-Mutants looks pleasant and offers a decent (but muddy) pallet of colors from stage to stage, but I kind of get the vibe that I’ve done all of this before. The setting is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, yet you kind of traverse through a lot of archetypical gaming scenarios you’ve seen in many other titles before and after this. Sewers, laboratories, forests, you name it, this game does it. The sprites are…well…pretty average, to say the least. Ackroyd and Shannon, the two characters to choose from, look oddly cropped an really stand out. They’re both very boring to look at and make me want to fall asleep! Ackroyd is a muscled man in a tan trench coat with a tiny head and Shannon looks like she has the build of a 14 year old female gymnast with no face. I don’t want to sound too demanding, but for goodness sake,THIS 8 bit sprite has more personality than these two poorly animated, dull-colored lumps of clay! You’re super heroes, aren’t you!? Baah, I shouldn’t be too harsh. The animation
I don’t really mean to be unfair here, but this is the same council that produced those two awesome X Men games, so it may be a bit of an unfair to categorize it in such a manner, but when you’re called Ex-Mutants, there is that 700lb gorilla in the room. Enemies barely have any frames of animation, so it feels like you’re hitting action figures that no-sell your damage until they fall over.
…Wait…did that guy kill me with exploding fat after I WON??!
Other than the monsters legit looking like hideous freaks (they ARE mutants), the visuals are serviceable, but nothing seems particularly striking or interesting. SCORE: 5.5/10
SOUND: I’m not going to mince words. This is the worst-sounding Sega Genesis game I have ever played. Sound quality may overall be better on the Super Nintendo, but you could always rely on the Megadrive to produce those gritty metal sound effects that give some games a real edge to them. Unfortunately, Ex-Mutants’s soundtrack is mostly composed of fart noises and a 1983 Casio synthesizer that had it’s larynx sliced with a rusty pocket knife!!
If your ears could vomit, they would. I can barely understand the witty remarks they utter, and all of the enemies, whether you’re hitting a turret, a lion head, a pulsating wall blob, emit the same “Uergh!!” and “Uagh!!”. This makes Captain America & The Avengers on SNES sound like Super Metroid by comparison! SCORE 1.5/10
CONTROLS: So where Ex-Mutants may not hold up well in the audio and graphics department, the gameplay is actually pretty decent. You jump, attack, and can use an alternate weapon to nail bad guys out of reach from your melee attack. The weapons don’t range in usefulness like Castlevania or Mega Man, in fact, why on earth are there so many bombs and proximity mines in this game? The best weapons to pick up are powerups for your standard attack, preferably the shot that fires several projectiles at an angle, to cover more area. These can run out and can only max out at 50, which sucks, since everything in this damn game takes so many hits! You do pick up grenades and these weird bouncy bombs to add some power, but the mines and stationary bombs are best for finding secret walls to blow up. There is a very mild delay in jumping and attacking and there’s that problem of leaping to platforms and not fully hitting your mark. (that always drives me crazy) and the hit detection is rather suspect. You have to nestle close to enemies to be sure your melee strike connects, and it doesn’t matter who you pick, your hit box is the same. Shannon does have a further range than Ackroyd, but she’s weaker and has a smaller energy bar. Ranged attacks and weapons are very important, so look for as many powerups as possible. SCORE: 6.5/10
DIFFICULTY: You have to search the level thoroughly for battery charges or else Kildare, the Ex-Mutants’ mentor/leader will send you back to look for it. this adds some exploration element to an otherwise insane hack’n’slasher.
Each stage has several sections to navigate through, including a mine cart ride that features the strangest physics I’ve ever encountered, and a water raft ordeal. Afterwards, you encounter mini-bosses and stage bosses, which I find amusing. I’m certain the mid-stage boss battles are twice as hard as the actual bosses. Another frustrating aspect is Ex-Mutants lacks temporary invulnerability when you get hit! That’s kind of essential to getting your bacon out of the fire, instead a group of enemies can kill you quickly with a cheap combo and you have little chance of saving yourself! See that green jelly blob and old mutant lady with the purse? I have to take that damage, there’s no way to avoid that! This game can be challenging, but almost in that Kid Chameleon way, where it’s slightly poor design and not really legit difficulty. Sometimes the game forces you to take a hit before you can figure out what it is you need to avoid, and you can’t afford to do that in between stretches of no health items! SCORE: 7/10
OVERALL: Ex-Mutants is certainly lacking a degree of polish and flair that makes these styles of games memorable, and it’s far from horrible. It’s pretty average. Not a single thing sticks out about it that rings impressive (other than an enemy named “Beefcake”), but it does enough that makes it a serviceable playthrough. And hey, if you happened to be a fan of the comic, then that’s a bonus to take home. On a console that has exclusives like Vector Man, Comix Zone, Castlevania Bloodlines, and Adventures of Batman & Robin, Ex-Mutants can be passed up, unless you want to pad your Genesis collection. FINAL SCORE: 5.5/10