Platforms: PC, Mac
We played on: PC
Walt Disney once said “Get a good idea and stay with it.” Many modern puzzle games have utilized a single brilliant concept to fuel the entire experience. Mushroom 11 is the latest of these innovative puzzlers with a unique and challenging growth mechanic. (We previewed Mushroom 11 at PAX Prime.)
In Mushroom 11 you play as a self-replicating amorphous green blob. A fungus, if you will. The blob constantly tries to stay the same size. It also needs to touch the ground or a suitable object in order to grow. Left click erases large chunks for rapid movement. Right click allows for smaller shape-building. Using these simple mechanics you guide your fungus through a gauntlet of platformer-style traps and hazards.
The difficulty starts off appropriately easy as you learn to carefully manipulate your blob through water, over spikes, and up cliffs. Seven total chapters test your mettle. Each chapter is set in a different post-apocalyptic environment. These range from urban industrial to volcanic. The environments hint that your precocious fungus may either be the world’s instrument of destruction or its salvation.
I especially enjoyed that each chapter ends in an old-school video game boss battle. Often the battles do a great job encouraging you to use a newly learned tactic or environmental feature. In one battle, you have to crawl on a large plant-like creature. Another battle forces you to utilize the rocket-controlling balancing act you needed to perfect earlier in the chapter.
Each chapter also contains 50 nodes of DNA that can be collected from the few remaining plants and animals. Often these creatures are just out of reach, requiring an extra adjustment or massive risk to acquire them. Collecting them is purely optional. But it’s a nice way to add an additional challenge layer and goal.
About halfway through the game, the difficulty ramps up sharply and never lets go. Too many of the puzzles require perfect and practiced precision often within a stressful time limit. Liberal checkpoints throughout each chapter help minimize the damage. But it still becomes less and less fun when a single puzzle takes over an hour to complete. To indie developer Untame‘s credit, they’ve already patched the game to help stabilize the sharp difficulty curve. This alleviates some of the frustration from the more brutal puzzles in the latter half.
Mushroom 11 has been rated E10+ by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood. The only real direct conflict is during the boss battles. And even then it’s very minor.
Mushroom 11’s level design and puzzles are often impressive and awe-inspiring. Its ratio of logic puzzles versus dexterity and skill is weighted too far toward the latter for my tastes, but overall I enjoyed the experience. Untame had a really good idea, and they stuck with it. Don’t be fooled by its lovely art and jazzy, industrial-synth soundtrack. Mushroom 11 is a challenging but rewarding puzzle-platformer.