Mutant Football League is a faithful return to the goofy, frustrating era of arcade sports

Jim: Good evening, folks, and welcome to a cheap narrative framework for explaining what we think of Mutant Football League so far! I'm a sports commentator! Tonight marks the evening of James's first experience with the game, a noted spiritual successor and name flip cousin to Mutant League Football.

Dave: Good evening, Jim. I'm also a sports commentator! Honestly, I don't know the first thing about Mutant League Football, but I do know that Mutant Football League feels like NFL Blitz rose from the grave, hellbent on inciting gruesome supernatural violence and cracking OK jokes! 

Jim: And that's what football is all about, Dave! Fast action, small playbooks, and big personalities who know what jokes might be! Mutant League Football channels the spirit of old arcade football games and layers it with an important player management system. Footballers have health bars, unlike real life. Big tackles take big chunks out of that bar and players often beat the piss out of one another after the play whistle. If their health reaches zero that player is dead. Lose too many players and it's game over! Actually, that's exactly like real life, Dave! 

What kind of matchup should we anticipate tonight?

Dave: That was supremely expository, Jim! Tonight James is playing as the Croakland Invaders and taking on the Nuked London Hatriots, goofy parodies of actual NFL teams. In a pre-game locker room exclusive interview, he told me that he's getting pumped up by listening to Brand New and imagining scenarios in which he defeats bullies. His confidence is high going in, Jim. 

Jim: Let's hope our Icarus doesn't tackle too close to the sun!

Dave: He tackled too close to the sun, Jim. What an awful kickoff. The controls are a bit touchy, and movement is even harder. You gotta keep in mind movement is abrupt on the field, lacking the sense of weight and momentum most third-person controls go for nowadays. Players feel more like strict variables behaving according to strict stat attributes. But the fact remains: that was embarrassing. 

Jim: You really just pick a vector and hit terminal velocity right away in this universe, Dave. The usual jump, spin, dive, and turbo meters are there for dodging around incoming players, but the collision can feel inconsistent. It's hard to know when to deploy a jump or spin, though jamming buttons in a panic seems to do alright for James.

2nd quarter

Dave: With another QB dead by James' slippery hands, I'm hoping someone comes and sacks me because that defensive player's retort was god awful, Jim.

Jim: 'Hope that QB has better aim with his girlfriend' is hardly a joke. Nor is 'I made Free Willy look like a tic-tac.' These goofs and gags will be the end of us, Dave. 

Dave: Let's hope James taps A as quickly as he can to skip the dialogue. Here he goes. Wow, he's really slamming that A button. Between the inter-play screens and determining his next move, I've never seen screens fly by so quickly. What a blur! 

Jim: Speaking of blurs, Dave, the athletes look great, but their outfits and body types make the field look like a Magic Eye poster!

Dave: Can't make out a thing, Ted. 

Jim: I miss the old days of simple textures and simpler uniforms! Sure, we were all just low-poly blotches of color back then, but you actually understood what was going on, Bob! Now, you can barely make out the hole in the line your offense rips open, or one team from another in when they're bunched up. The language of football, it's sacred! 

Dave: Blessed be!

Jim: Hold on, Dave. What's this? The defense is jumping the line before the play begins! That's another quarterback down! Dead, even!

Dave: Dirty Trick plays are allowed and encouraged in the MFL. Surprise QB murder is just one of many tricks I've seen in my time. I've seen running backs emit energy fields that dissolve anyone in their way, I've seen them carry shotguns to ward off would-be tacklers, I've seen my own son burst like a bag of meat and blood during a screen pass for a three yard gain, flattened beneath the body of an orc that somehow grew to be six times their size before the QB could finish saying 'hut'! It was pretty cool, I must admit.

Jim: Dirty Trick plays are as entertaining as they are frustrating, Dave. The unpredictable nature of dirty plays means the score can flip without warning, which makes long term strategy feel pointless, but hey! At least they have limited uses, right Dave?

Dave: That's right, Jim. My son was the only one crushed beneath a giant that half. Any more dead sons and I'd start yelling foul play! I have very many sons!

3rd quarter

Dave: Here we are the top of the third quarter while James sits on three dead quarterbacks. One remains, the score is lopsided in the Hatriot's favor, and his play-calling has been a mess. Why did he murder the referee he just bribed? That could've been a few free penalties on the other team in their favor! Slippery fingers or complete mental vapidity? Jim, what's he going to need to turn it around in time?

Jim: Nothing short of a miracle, Dave. By the way, we've done a horrible job keeping tabs on what's actually happening in this game!

Dave: That's right, Jim! The narrative construct is collapsing around us, and things aren't looking good. Quick, let's comment on a play and layer in some insight!

Jim: You got it, Dave!

Dave: Christ, Jim. What a terrible play! I couldn't ask for anything worse! MFL is just fine, of course, but James really dropped the ball here. He dropped it so hard that a massive, lumbering orc walked it into his end zone from across the field! Now his final quarterback is dead and he's been forced to forfeit. What a unique wrinkle in an emotional roller coaster of a light-touch football simulation!

Jim: I couldn't agree more, Dave. A pitiful display, truly. But that's the game: easy to pick up, and jam-packed with total bullshit at every turn. The MFL is all about feeling in control only for your best laid plans—James' plans weren't laid very well to begin with—to go awry. And it's in that split second where you see all hope tumbling down before you, that split second in which you can react, that split second which James chose to use for cussing or taking a long, long drink of beer—it's in those moments where the spirit of the game is realized: teamwork, strategy, and the joy of attempting to maliciously sabotage your opponent before they do the same to you.

Dave: What you're trying to say, Jim, is that MFL is a cheeky football arcade throwback with wildly swinging matches, noisy graphics, but competent enough play-calling and movement systems to make for a pretty good time, so long as you have the patience for tragic ends. Especially between friends. Besides putting a few bad jokes on repeat, it achieves what it advertises.

Jim: Well when you put it that way, Dave, you make me sound like I care too much.

Dave: I don't blame you, Jim. It's not perfect, but until Madden gets his life together, this might be the best football game the PC has. Skeletons and orcs and aliens and stuff.

Jim: C'mon, John!

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.