Mushroom 11 has been an absolute pleasure to watch grow. I first saw the game at PAX East 2014, and saw the demo develop and evolve at a handful of other festivals and expos. Having now played Mushroom 11 in its entirety, I can safely say it is a truly unique game. It’s deceptively challenging, uses mechanics I’ve never experienced before, and offers so much while actually doing so little.
I’m also terrible at it.
Title: Mushroom 11
Creator: Untame Games
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Game Version: Final
Interface: Keyboard and Mouse
The very first thing you’ll notice when you start playing Mushroom 11 is that things move…differently. The most unique, and I’d say most creative, element of this entire game is the mechanic of movement: the fungus you control in Mushroom 11 is maneuvered by “erasing” sections of the green blob. When an area is deleted, it grows back in another are of the blob as soon as you stop erasing or it hits solid ground. Thus, even though this mass of fungal destruction can always regenerate, you can still die by falling into or coming in contact with an environmental effect that decays the fungus faster than it can regrow. You know, like lava.
It’s this simple and utterly unique mechanic that forms the basis of every single puzzle and challenege you meet in the game’s seven levels. While I was playing through Mushroom 11 and preparing this review, I wondered how I should address the controls. Part of me thinks that just how unique they are and how difficult they may be for some to successfully grasp should be chalked up as a potential downside of design: I did find the way you control the fungus in Mushroom 11 frustrating on more than one occasion, as I’ve said. However, it’s such an utterly unique and clearly executed mechanic I don’t want to discourage it. Just know that it absolutely takes getting used to, and you will struggle controlling and moving through the environments more than once as you play through this game.
I will admit that more than one puzzle frustrated me, confused me and caused me to walk away. Yet, to the game’s credit, when I returned, I always figured them out and I always came back. The level design is liberally peppered with checkpoints, so once you actually figure out how to move that green blob through a particularly tough section, you are always rewarded, and I can only think of one or two instances in the entire game in which I felt like I had to struggle through something I’d already figured out. In any other game I’d say there were almost too many checkpoints, but without them, Mushroom 11 would approach Dark Souls level of frustration and/or difficulty. Mushroom 11 requires you to think in ways you’re probably not used to. Movement in this game is very different from your classic WASD, and where in another game the challenge might moving a certain object to the right location, in Mushroom 11, the challenge is moving yourself to a specific location.
The art direction of Mushroom 11 is wonderful. The world is a beautiful, and refreshingly colorful, apocalyptic wasteland. Populated by derelict factories, otherworldly plants and insects, and strange machinery, without saying a single word, Mushroom 11 tells a very intriguing tale of destruction rebirth and growth. We are never privy to all the details, but just enough to have our curiosity peaked and our attention grabbed. A pulsing electronic Soundtrack by Future Sound of London ground the game in an ambiance of Science Fiction that makes the environment otherworldly, yet recognizable.
Untame have created a truly unique game in Mushroom 11. On this merit alone you should experience it. It is entirely possible you may find controls difficult, perhaps even annoying, but they are a hurdle worth climbing over to experience a puzzle game that you’ve never seen anything even remotely similar too. Untame clearly know how to make a game and Mushroom 11 represents exactly what indie games should be about: It’s unique, it’s risky, and it’s fun