Trust the Fungus.
Mushroom 11 has been in development for a few years now but that hasn’t stopped it from getting attention. One look at a screen shot and it’s easy to see why. Mushroom 11 is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or played. It’s a platformer sort of puzzle game kind of post apocalyptic themed something-or-another. If that sentence have came off as nonsensical or chaotic you read it correctly. To describe it as any of these things would be to oversimplify the game, but it’s definitely something you need to play to understand.
In Mushroom 11 you play as a green blob that can’t move. The only way to get your blob from point A to point B is to use your magic cursor to erase part of it which simultaneously grows back what the blob has lost. There’s no formal way to jump, run, duck, or whatever else you’re used to. It’s not too hard to pick up but actually learning ways to solve puzzles is a lesson between every checkpoint. The game doesn’t feature a formal tutorial, but honestly it’s nice to see a game have faith in the player to experiment and learn. I can’t say I ever got comfortable with knowing specifically how to solve types of areas, but the fact that I made it through the game says something in itself. You’ll cut yourself in half to get across pits, steer rockets and wheels using your weight, and many other physics puzzles that were fun to mess around with.
The visuals in Mushroom 11 are gorgeous, which was a surprise in a post-apocalyptic themed game. The color palette expand beyond the usual drab browns and grays and finds different things to throw at you section by section. Every area is unique from your usual destroyed buildings to psuedo meat packing plants, carnivals, and other interesting earthly decay. Being a green cube-y blob isn’t much but when you take a minute to look around at the backgrounds you get a real sense of depth. The game is without much or any narrative, but somehow still manages to make you feel something as you look at what’s left of the world.
Mushroom 11 takes off the training wheels and ramps the difficulty that goes from maybe a 4 to a 10. Between the fourth and fifth level I went from completing a level in about a half hour to close to two hours. It is really intense and it came totally unexpected. Up until this point in the game I was having a pleasant time listening to the ambient music and taking in the environments. Suddenly the gloves were off and the game became a stress inducing checkpoint to checkpoint game of frustration a la Trials. The reason it’s such a big deal is the game doesn’t do a great job easing you into the difficult puzzles and all of a sudden I found myself stuck just hoping for a long simple section that never came. The last three or four levels are really difficult and every time I could possibly feel a sense of relief that came from finishing a puzzle I ran into another tough section. It would have been nice to get a sense of balance but it’s hard to criticize something for the sheer fact that I sucked at it.
Going along with the difficulty I’ll expand upon one of my earlier point of how counter intuitive the puzzles can be. The biggest issue for me was sections with steam that lifted your blob off the ground. I don’t remember passing a single one of those puzzles beyond just winging it and seeing what happened. There was an entire boss fight you had to win by using this mechanic and I guarantee you I finished it on sheer luck.
That doesn’t mean everything in the game doesn’t have learning elements. I really enjoyed the wall climbing puzzles and certain sections where you’d have to slowly fine tune your blob around corners and up sections without going a million miles per hour. Throughout the game there are little collectible organic features to add a level of difficulty to each level. I didn’t always go after them, but they’re a nice addition for people that want a challenge without changing the difficulty in the game. Point is, Mushroom 11 shines by requiring the player to stop and think about what they’re doing rather than just click spam your blob in hopes that it makes it was really satisfying when I’d succeed. There were moments where I’d erase the back end of the blob and find myself falling and having to start over but at least in those moments it felt like my own mistake and not because I didn’t understand.
Despite its potential difficulty and some of the odd puzzles, Mushroom 11 is a well designed game I highly recommend. The game isn’t as short as it may seem with the lengthy level design plus collectibles and timers. Definitely pick this up this fantastic and unique gaming experience it’s well worth your time.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Mac, Linux ; Publisher: Untame ; Developer:Untame ; Players: 1; Release Date: October 15, 2015 ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Mushroom 11’s developer Untame.