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Mutant Football League launches with a throwback 67-page instruction manual

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Collectors also get a beautifully bogus Sega Genesis cartridge

Mutant Football League screenshots Digital Dreams

Mutant Football League, the spiritual successor to the Sega Genesis hit from 1993, launched on Jan. 19, and it may be one of the last console video games to ship with an old-school, 67-page phat printed instruction manual.

Not everyone gets it (and the game’s launch at retail will come this summer). It’s part of the Retro Genesis Case premium offered to backers who pledged at the $65 or $85 levels of a supplementary Kickstarter back in February. Digital Dreams, the game’s developer, sent me a copy. It’s glossy, authentically sized, uses typefaces no designer would have dreamed of using in the past 15 years and stacked with original illustrations.

And it’s functional, too. For those who have forgotten how to play Mutant League, the manual revisits all of the staples of the classic. Here’s the page for the dirty tricks available to the offense.

Owen Good/Polygon

And here’s the return of the outrageous “Bribe Ref” dirty trick, where players can pay the officiating to screw the other side. (Until the other side pays the officiating to screw them.) Then, as the manual notes: “When it’s clear a ref is bribed there can only be one outcome — he has to be eliminated.”

Owen Good/Polygon

The interior of the case includes a bogus Genesis cartridge as a novelty.

Owen Good/Polygon

And the cover is an insert underneath a classic matte-finish vinyl jacket.

Owen Good/Polygon

Here’s the back of the case:

Owen Good/Polygon

“We were just trying to make it entertaining, that’s why we had the graphics,” said Michael Mendheim, the game’s creator. “We wanted it to be like a product from back then. When we were designing these things, I was thinking, ‘If I bought that, what would I want?’”

Mutant Football League was very much a labor of love. Mendheim made the original Mutant League Football for Electronic Arts in 1993. Development on MFL goes back to 2013, when an ambitious Kickstarter failed out of the gate.

Mendheim, still committed to resurrecting undead football players, got back to work nonetheless, with a diamond-hard focus on fan service. He brought aboard Tim Kitzrow, the voice of NBA Jam. The project showed enough work and attention to detail to raise about $140,000 in the February Kickstarter, and it launched on Steam in November.

“Right now, I’m a nervous wreck,” Mendheim admitted, 10 days after launch. “The baby is out in the world, and I’m hoping it does well, and I’m hoping fans and players are receptive to it. We’ve seen that it’s trending on PlayStation Network, and that’s good, but I hope people are receptive to it.

“The game is evolving every day,” Mendheim added, “so that manual is probably outdated by now.”