Released only in North America on the Atari 7800 in 1990, Midnight Mutants is a free-roaming, scrolling action adventure with isometric graphics. It was developed by Radioactive Software and the box art features a likeness of Al Lewis, dressed as Grandpa Munster, who plays the role of “Grampa” in this game.
You play as Jimmy Harkman – on a quest to save “Grampa” who has been imprisoned inside a pumpkin by a villain called Dr. Evil… Which begs the question: who writes these things?!
What this translates to is: “explore various locations – including a haunted mansion, a secret laboratory, a haunted forest, a pumpkin patch, a graveyard, an old shipwreck, and various other locations – collecting weapons, killing monsters, and defeating bosses as you go. And if you try really hard you might just rescue Grampa…”
The game itself reminds me of the Arthur Pendragon games from Ultimate Play The Game – you’re constantly getting chased by bad guys and avoiding them is more luck than judgement. You can fire weapons at them, which is essential in certain places, like when the dogs attack (because if they bite you they also bring you to the ground). Your survival is linked to the on-screen health bar, and once it is depleted it’s game over. You only get one life.
Boss battles are… frankly ridiculous. The bosses generally take up the majority of the screen and look relatively impressive for the time (well, for a home console), although they don’t really do much other than fire lots of bullets at you and have large health bars. But at least you can see their health bars so have some indication of progress in a boss fight.
The graphics in Midnight Mutants are quite nice. The sprites are a bit chunky and lack frames of animation (how many does the main character have? Two?), reminding me of expanded C64 style graphics, which is no bad thing. The backgrounds are unimaginative, though. The background music is simple, but pleasant enough, and there’s an animated intro too, so the game is well-presented overall.
Midnight Mutants was one of the last games released for the Atari 7800, so its distribution at the time was limited. In spite of that, the game remains popular with fans of the console to this day and is worth playing if you can find a copy.