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Mutant Football League adds the voice of NBA Jam, and predicts tomorrow’s big game (update)

Bomb Shadey’s big problem is exploding balls, not shrunken ones

Digital Dreams
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Mutant Football League, the revival of weird football from the creator of the original Mutant League Football, has added an announcing team, opened a modest Kickstarter, and targeted October for a PC launch. And they're back again with another zany simulation of tomorrow's, uh, "Big Game."

We can't vouch for the total accuracy of Digital Dreams' prognostications here — giant rotary saw blades do not traverse an American football field, nor does the ball explode (we aren't yet sure about the ref-bribing). But if these sides are rated anything like their real-life counterparts, who knows, the underdog may pay off in a big way tomorrow night.

More factually, Mutant Football League has brought in Tim Kitzrow, the bombastic boom-shakalaka voice of NBA Jam, to the commentary team. This is a significant get and solves a key feature that takes a lot of time and dough even for big developers. Kitzrow and Michael Mendheim, the Mutant League creator and founder of Digital Dreams Entertainment, both live in Chicago, helping to make the connection. After a short meeting over beer and deep-dish pizza, Kitzrow came on as the creative director for voice-overs.

"This is a dream job for me," Kitzrow told Polygon. "Complete artistic freedom, no corporate suits and league attorneys saying 'you can't say this,' or 'did you just say that?! You won't say that.'

"In what other video game could I talk about deflated balls?” Kitzrow mused. ”[Such as] 'After that vicious sack, Bomb Shadey will be playing with deflated balls for the rest of his career!'" Kitzrow returned to two iterations of NBA Jam, in 2010 and 2011, for EA Sports and also provided booth commentary (with fellow comedian Brian Haley) in 2012's NFL Blitz revival. Kitzrow and Haley were really held back in Blitz, no doubt because of the NFL's heavily manicured mainstream image managers.

Mutant Football League - Croakland Invaders stadium Digital Dreams

However, the mention of his booth partner in MFL comes with a tragic note: Derek Dziak, the game's analyst and another Chicago comedian brought to the project by Kitzrow, died Jan. 2 after contracting a viral infection on his honeymoon. Dziak had recorded his lines with Kitzrow in late October, and he will appear in the game posthumously.

"He was a huge fan of the game," Kitzrow said. "He spent one afternoon just showing me old clips on YouTube of the Saturday morning MLF cartoon show, and talking about how excited he was to be part of this."

"We loved Derek and I get a lump in my throat just thinking about him," Mendheim added. "We will do something significant to tribute Derek in the game."

Mendheim says all of the core systems and features of Mutant Football League have been finished, except for the online multiplayer component, which is getting Digital Dreams' most attention right now. A pre-alpha demo is available for a $1 contribution to MFL's Kickstarter, which opened on Thursday. At the time of publication, it had about $44,000 of a $60,000 goal.

Mutant Football League - Croakland Invaders Digital Dreams Entertainment

"[Online play] is also the reason we went back to Kickstarter," Mendheim said. 'The game shines most when playing against other people. At its heart, MFL is an online multiplayer party game. Once we have an online mode, people can set up tournaments and have a blast."

Mutant Football League has proven itself to be an resolute labor-of-love project despite flopping on an overly ambitious Kickstarter in 2013. Mendheim has stuck with his vision, however, and rallied community support for the development of the game (shared with coding partners in Kiev). The pre-alpha demo is a sign of MFL's seriousness and viability, Mendheim says. He has targeted October for the full PC launch, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions to follow sometime in early 2018.

"The biggest challenge is the day to day struggles of keeping this project alive on a shoestring budget. Counting every single penny, every day. It’s very hard and takes toll after a while," Mendheim said. "I worry about the team and their families.

"We’ve had to reduce the scope of the game a bit, not as many teams or character species, but we can add those as DLC if the game proves to be successful," Mendheim said. "The main thing here is to deliver a super fun game that makes you laugh and scream. The community has told us we’re on the right track."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the analyst providing commentary for Mutant Football League. He is Derek Dziak.

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