Game: Mushroom 11
Retail price: $14.99
The publisher provided a copy of the game for this review.
Mushroom 11 is a puzzle platformer by Untame Studios. It is the result of one of those crazy game jams, where developers create something in the space of a weekend. Mushroom 11 sees you take control of an amorphous organism as you traverse a barren wasteland. The game was born from the idea of having to leave something behind to move forward, and it follows that mantra consistently throughout. One of the first things I noticed about Mushroom 11 is just how minimal the experience is. Most games would bombard you with tips during the opening sequence, but Mushroom 11 does not. It gives you one simple tip on how to make the mushroom move, and that is pretty much it. While some may find this frustrating, I applaud this “get on with it” attitude the developers have taken. To be honest though, once you have learned how to move the amorphous organism around there really isn’t much else to learn. It becomes about adapting this single concept to complex puzzles and platforming situations, which is really where the meat of Mushroom 11 is. The game’s starting level is a perfect blend of beginner guidance and creative problem solving. It does an excellent job of introducing you to the game world, showing you the best way to solve puzzles and also how to avoid the enemies dotted around the world. You’re going to need to learn these basic skills as later on in the game they are thrown at you much more regularly.
It’s not just the first level in Mushroom 11 where level design takes center stage; the whole game is a perfect mix of complicated puzzles and adaptive situations. You’ll have areas in which you are travelling along in a vehicle, having to adapt the amorphous object to the bumps and jumps in the terrain. The rail section later on in the game is a perfect example of how challenging and fun this can be. The rail section felt like I was in some kind of quick time event, but it was real time, and I had full control. The developers have created a brilliantly sadistic playground for you to lose every last nerve at, but I never once felt like giving up. Instead, I would often take a small break and have a think about how I could get past an obstacle. Unlike a lot of puzzle platformers, there are bosses in Mushroom 11. I was weirdly surprised by the emphasis on end of level bosses which is one of the few proper gaming tropes actually present in Mushroom 11. Unlike a lot of boss battles, though, the enemy is usually beaten through a mix of environmental and timed attacks. One of the more memorable bosses is a big spiky ball that fires rockets at the player. It’s also worth noting that there are a number of collectibles dotted around the world for you to collect, making a second play through a much more attractive option. Some of them are in really hard to reach places as well, so there is another layer of difficulty there for those who want it.
It honestly took me a lot longer to figure this out than I’d like to admit. But once I got the general idea of what I had to do I set to work taking out that weird worm looking thing on the inside.
While you might have to leave stuff behind to move forward, you also have to keep trying and as the great John Cena would say “Never Give Up”. This is the perfect slogan for Mushroom 11; it is a proper case of rinse and repeat game play. This is especially prevalent given the abundance of checkpoints. The developers know you are going to fail, they want you to fail. But they also want you to keep going and work that brain to figure out what to do.
I found myself growing weirdly fond of the amorphous green blob, despite the fact there is no dialogue of any kind. It is literally just a pretty green blob that moves where you tell it. I cared more about this blob than I have about characters in some other games. If I could stop a smaller piece of the goo falling in the lava, I would. I can’t even explain why I did, maybe I just grew fond of it through our mutual experience of hardship within the world of Mushroom 11. I have to give special mention to the art style that Untame has created as it perfectly complements the bleak apocalyptic world they have designed. The colour scheme is bleak and brown which contrasts against the light green of the amorphous blob; leading the blob to be a constantly visible on the screen at all times. These small but important decisions are numerous throughout Mushroom 11; the developers have taken a long time to perfect every small detail throughout the world.
There is only one major aspect of the game that lets me down, and that is the soundtrack. With the super cool apocalypse vibe, something really special could have been done with the score. There is a soundtrack, but it’s passable and does its job. The experience really could have been improved with a great score. I have still have not finished the game as it gets incredibly hard later on, but while I would have walked away from most other games Mushroom 11 has completely gripped me. It is one of my favorite indie titles this year and has pretty much come from complete obscurity straight into the spotlight. If you’re into puzzle platformers, this is an absolute must and even if you aren’t the simple game play mechanics will probably hook you. On a side note, I am extremely excited to see what the speed running community does with Mushroom 11. There is the capacity for a super competitive scene to emerge around this game, especially when you take into consideration the level of difficulty presented. I suppose we will just have to wait.
- Simple but addictive game play
- Challenging and intuitive level design
- Clever boss battles
- Fluid controls
- The soundtrack could have been better