1993 Electronic Arts
Platform: SEGA Mega Drive
Mutant Speed Demons was to be yet another title the Mutant League series on the SEGA Mega Drive, following on from the likes of Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey and created by New Wave Graphics.
Over the years, little has been known about the title apart from a few very brief press clippings about the game. Gamepro magazine described the title as a “rip-roaring motorcycle” game, but that was about it. The game subsequently disappeared without a trace and no more was heard about it.
In 2009, something of the game was almost found – when a prototype was unearthed. Tragically the game had long been wiped after the batteries were found to have failed that were keeping the game alive. Then in 2013, a detailed 100-200 page manuscript surfaced in an online auction, but has yet to have been digitally preserved and made available.
Then in February 2021, @IsaiahVinson1 got in touch with Games That Weren’t to flag up some assets that were found on an older version of Mike Kennedy’s website. Mike was one of the artists working on the game at the time and had once showcased some of the art he had produced. The sprites give a great glimpse of roughly how the game was going to look and feel – showing a racing/beat-em-up game in the style of Road Rash. As Mutant League Football was reportedly built upon the Madden 93 engine (though Michael Mendheim has said it wasn’t), we felt there was a strong chance that this game was built upon the Road Rash engine.
We have extracted out the sprites and files from Mike’s old website to include in the gallery below, which include his original comments as the caption where present. Here are the notes that Mike gave about the files:
“The original files were 320 x 200 .ANM sprites created in Deluxe Animator, maintaining the strict 16 color palette restrictions, including a transparent index and two cycling colors.
Points to note:
- Localizing movement minimizes tile count, thus saves memory.
- Many animations would incorporate an overlay sprite and shadow sprite, placed by code.
- Sprites were flipped by code.
- Tire patterns were cycled in code for a “spinning” effect.
- This represents approximately 5% of the total work completed for this cancelled project.”
For now and from the sprites, we can see that at least two of the characters were to be “Bones Jackson” and “K.T. Slayer”, who were in the other Mutant League series of games. Bones Jackson was the captain of the Midway Monsters in the Mutant League series. K.T. Slayer is the leader of the Slaycity Slayers within the Mutant League series.
A few low-res photos from the design document auction also gave some further clues about the game. The concept was for instance detailed as follows:
“Hold on tight and prepare yourself for the meanest, low-down and dirty race in the galaxy! Mutant Speed Demons (c) dares to take you where the others fear to tread. You’ll planet hop from galaxy to galaxy, racing against some of the most ruthless gangs of psychos, demented demons and metal maniacs you’ll ever want to meet!
Mutant Speed Demons (c) will rock ‘n roll you senseless on some of the most radically intense tracks on the strangest worlds ever! Race for the glory, race to be the best, race for some of the biggest mega-prize money in the galaxy! You’ll go head-to-head with the most savage cars, awesome bikes and funkiest vehicles in the universe. These cretins will stop at nothing to make sure that not only don’t you win, but the only finish line you’ll see is a tread mark across your forehead! Can you hold your own against some of the lowest, most despicable creatures ever to ride on two tails (sp?) or will you end up as road pizza stuck to another guy’s rear axle? If you’ve got a thrill to kill and a need for speed, check out … Mutant Speed Demons! (c)”
One of the races (though sadly lacking accompanying text detail in the photo) was to be called “Surreal World”. However, another page for the “The Gauntlet” race did come with the following description:
“The Gauntlet race is perhaps the most nerve-jarring, bone shatteringly intense type of race in the Tournee. It’s you (game player) alone and with no weapons, against the track and the violent gangs who own it. Game player’s objective is to cross the finish line before the time limit has expired. This “type” of race will test the game player’s courage, driving skill and reaction time as no other race can.”
A further page establishes that between levels you would be able to upgrade your bike and your engine in particular to get extra power and advantage over the other players. Then a final page reveals that at the end of each track/race you would have encountered a variety of end of track bosses. One shown in the photos was “The Beast”, which was described as follows:
“This car, with a mind of its own, makes “Christine” look like Snow White. The Beast started showing up on different tracks during the Tournee decades ago. Causing mayhem and mishaps with its famous head-on smash collisions and radical sideswipe wipe outs. The Beast has an uncanny ability to rebuild itself after collisions. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to escape her wrath by totalling her, don’t smile too quickly – she may be waiting up around the … <text cut off>”
Whilst putting together the initial page for the game, we decided to reach out to a few contacts – including Gil Colgate, who had worked on Mutant League Soccer to see if he knew anything about the development. Shortly afterwards, we had a surprise response back that Gil was in fact one of the developers on the game.
Gil confirmed our theory that the game had indeed taken EA’s Road Rash engine and put the Mutant League characters on the bikes. He recalled it being technically challenging, as the hardware was being already used to the max for Road Rash, and making artwork changes was difficult. Gil remembers also specifically altering the engine to increase the effect of the part of the game that allowed people behind to catch up, and people in front to be caught up in order to maximize the chance of melee.
The game was fully playable, though Gil suggests that the three stooges mutant enemy didn’t quite work out in practice, as when going down the highway, it appeared too quickly. That was his opinion anyway he tells us, and he thinks this was implemented in the end.
Where the characters otherwise pulled up alongside you and attacked, this worked out well – with a more Streetfighter style approach with that part being implemented. Gil also recalls the end of level boss – The Beast, but cannot remember if it was working or not or just included as a car by the end of development. As to how complete the game was overall, Gil confirmed it wasn’t finished – it was working, and you could play the game, but he thinks it didn’t have enough levels, interludes or characters in at the time.
When asked what happened exactly to the game, Gil tells us that EA decided to drop many titles from their schedule, including the Mutant League series – instead going on to release titles such as Shaq Fu. Gil sadly no longer has anything of the development, so the search goes on to other members for more hope and luck.
Isaiah Mays-Vinson spoke with Mike in May 2023, and Mike confirmed that the game was basically going to be Road Rash, but with extra features that RR didn’t have at the time, including hills and projectile weapons. The game was violent like Mutant League was, pretty cartoony with green blood and explosions.
Mike didn’t recall there being teams in Speed Demons, and recalled it being specifically about characters as racers: Bones Jackson, Mo and Spew Puke etc. He wasn’t aware if any coaches were ever in the game or if the sprites were made – Mike had only worked on the racers themselves in action.
This was it for now, but it is hoped that more who worked on the title will come forward to share their time on the development, and maybe even something of the game itself. We’re currently hoping to hear more from artist Mike Kennedy about the project at least and will update this page as time goes on.
With thanks to @IsaiahVinson1 for discovering the sprites, heads up and interview questions with Mike, and Gil Colgate for his recollections. Manuscript and Prototype cartridge photos courtesy of Sega Retro. and Games Sniped,