With a premise that combined one part Madden, and two parts Mad Max, Mutant League Football was destined to have a rabid fan base. The sports game loved by everyone – even non-sports fans - was a monster hit on the Sega Genesis way back the 1990s, and has been consistently in the top ten of every “games that need a remake” list ever since. Maxim spoke with MLF creator Mike Mendheim (who was nice enough to provide us with the exclusive art in this article) on the eve of the launch of his Kickstarter campaign to develop a brand spanking new iteration. Let the mayhem commence!
What was it like creating the game originally?
The idea was originally bounced off my friend Richard Robbins, who was a producer at EA (he did the Desert Strike series). Richard asked me to pitch the concept to Trip Hawkins, which I did. Trip gave it the green light. The game was incredibly difficult to develop, but at the same time it was also one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. The difficulty was trying to get the team to buy into the concept, which was exceptionally hard since I was a contractor and not an employee. Also, contrary to popular belief, we didn’t use the Madden engine, we created our own. Robbins left the company shortly after we started production, so I was basically running a small team for about a year at EA. Over time, other product teams started to take notice of the product and word started to spread.
How did it feel to see it get so huge?
Momentum was building slowly, but you could feel it growing. When the advance reviews started coming in they were really good - marketing was finally excited about the product and they gave it a platinum launch. The product jumped to the number #1 position for Sega Genesis sales and we were blown away - there’s nothing like that feeling of giving everything you have for something and then having all that hard work and effort pay off. It’s the best feeling in the world! Okay, second best feeling… The team tripled in size and their product teams started working on hockey, basketball, and even a racing game. EA signed a deal with Galoob for toys, and Franklin Waterman for an animated television show. Things seemed so bright!
Did you have favorite teams or characters?
From the old mutant league game, that’s easy - my favorite team was the Midway Monsters (a parody of the 1985 Bears). My favorite character was Bones Jackson (Bo Jackson). On the television show he was called Bones Justice. Mo & Spew Puke, from the Terminator Trolls, were pretty funny, they were two orc-like hillbilly brothers who were fierce defensive linemen with brains the size of a peanut. They also grunted and farted a lot…
Why do you think MLF just sort of faded away after a while?
Without warning, the line was canceled. The show was canceled. Everything was canceled. Just like that. No reason was given, but this all happened shortly after Trip left EA to start 3DO. Thankfully, the press and fans of the original game kept the idea alive through blogs, reviews, articles, and online surveys. Mutant League is always on the top 10 lists of games people would like to see remade.
Why hasn't it already made a comeback?
Attempts were made to bring the concept back, but the timing wasn’t right. I realized it’s the 20th anniversary of the original game and what do we have to lose? With some fan prodding, I decided to go for it and put together a core creative team. Every product needs a champion who will fight to the death for it. I am Mutant League Football’s Champion. So, here we go. Now it’s up to the gamers - if they really want the game, they will need to help back it, because without their support this game is not getting made. If we can raise enough money to hit our goal, we’ll make an awesome, hyper violent football game, played by wisecracking mutants and monsters who remind us of the athletes we love and those we love to hate. Oh, and we’ll make you laugh too. Not small laughs but big laughs.
What we can expect to see in the new version?
This isn’t an update, it’s is a brand new smoking hot game, driven by the same creator and designer of the original with a bunch of new and shining talent, including Eisner award winning comic legend Simon Bisley, comic writing legend Dave Elliott, and SpongeBob Squarepants writer Jay Lender. The talent for this project is quite impressive, and these guys are going to help take this concept to fantastic new heights. We’re going to deliver a fresh new take on everything, from the game view, to play calling, weapons, characters, and humor. Certainly this game is going to pay righteous homage to the original classic, Mutant League Football - but this is a brand-new mutant baby. So if this type of product sounds like your cup of tea, back us and help us get the word out!