Review: Mushroom 1111 Apr 2017 0
Review: Mushroom 11
Released 09 Mar 2017
The plot device of a post-apocalyptic world is not exactly alien to video games. Yet it is difficult to think of one that is framed around a central mechanic as seen in Mushroom 11, a puzzle-platformer from Untame Games. Released originally in 2015, and ported to mobile this year, you roll, split, dissolve, and form a number of shapes and sizes to traverse the – at times looking – Soviet-Apocalyptic landscape.
Dropped directly into the gameplay, the “hero” you control is a giant gelatinous blob that falls somewhere between fungal mass and flubber (a terrible 90s Robin Williams film for the uninformed). ‘Control’ is the operative word, as you have no direct ability to move the organic matter. Instead, by pressing down on the screen, you can destroy parts of the blobs shape, which will then form on the opposite side of its er… body.
However, the regeneration only takes place when back on solid surface, so a cautious approach needs to be taken when dissolving the blog into a tiny dot. Sometimes you squeeze into narrow passages, which the blob contracts automatically making for smooth and responsive gameplay. Other times you need to tactically split the blob in two, leaving a small cluster on a switch while you move the larger piece through the door. Puzzles tend to fall into the category of being solved on sight, with no area of the game causing any need to stop and think about the execution needed. It creates a good flow - to a point. While no one area should have you stuck for a few minutes, there will be a few places of precision platforming that will slow the pace down. This can get frustrating later on; putting the device down at points will be needed. If you have the patience for this kind of thing and like the challenge, Mushroom 11 has enough content to frustrate you in a good way.
It all feels solid and responsive; sliding your finger through the middle of the matter will cut it cleanly in two, which can be useful for experimenting with puzzles or hazards. Mushroom 11 is split across 7 chapters, with each chapter being broken down into a series of checkpoints, typically placed after a difficult piece of terrain that needs to be traversed, or after a puzzle. Each chapter has a gimmick or hazard to avoid; spikes, lava, pits, but they can largely described as “don’t fall in here.” You automatically start at the last checkpoint, so the game invites you to experiment on the best way to beat the challenges put in front without fear of punishment.
Each chapter feels like a series of steps teaching you the rules and mechanics, usually by making you understand a particular environmental hazard but in a controlled space. It is simple but effective game design, subtly forcing you to use mechanics in an increasing, elaborate set of ways, without bashing you over the head with instructions. This speaks for the game as a whole, using the environment to tell the story of Mushroom 11. It is opaque in describing the bleakness, yet this combined with the industrial and gothic soundtrack is pretty much all that the game needs to set the tone. It is difficult to tell if the game is trying to make some sort of environmental statement, but I’m now just looking to deep into things.
There’s a boss at the end of each stage that incorporates elements of things you’ve learned, and their design feels suitably in tone to the overall feel of the game – grotesque and deformed, as you would expect in a post-apocalyptic setting. They all have weak points that are glaringly obvious – one of the few negatives that can be directed at the game. Figuring out how to defeat the bosses (the eyes, always go for the eyes) is done within seconds, and the actual struggle is getting your blob to be in the right position to deal damage, which can mean multiple attempts. By no means game breaking, it is the one area where the ‘flow’ does slow down a noticeable pace.
Though tagged as a platformer, Mushroom 11 is anything but. Designing a game that leaves you struggling to control your protagonist throughout sounds, at best, something akin to QWAP or Octodad, and at worst, a broken mess. Here, though, Untame Games uses strong game design and pacing, letting you build up towards each hazard placed in front of you, and swapping between tactical platforming and reaction-based maneuvers to keep things interesting.
Not having played the original version, I could not comment on how the game feels and plays differently now ported to mobile, but it feels like a game that was always designed with touch-screen controls in mind – particularly with the ability to use multiple fingers to manipulate the matter. Some players will be frustrated by the unconventional method of moving about, which is fine. If the controls set you into a fit of rage within minutes, that state of emotion is not going to change over the course of a few hours (it will undoubtedly be worse). However, if you are able to get pass this, Mushroom 11 is a wonderfully unique spin on the platform genre that should be given your attention.