Genre(s): Adventure | Platforming
Release Date: October 2015
Played Full Campaign
Mushroom 11 is a puzzle platformer unlike any you’ve ever seen. You don’t jump, dash or climb by pressing a button or using the characters’ abilities. In fact, you will never press any button on your keyboard. Instead, you control the blob’s movement with your mouse and the eraser cursor. Yes, you read that right, eraser. The first instinct when seeing the cursor on screen is to use it to ‘push’ the blob forward, but that’s wrong and you’ll quickly realise it. You have to erase parts of the blob so they regrow on the opposite end of its body. By erasing segments you force the fungus to slouch forward or to crawl into tight spaces. All of the puzzles and platforming segments require careful and strategic use of this ingenious mechanic.
Mushroom 11 is one of a rare breed of game where the mechanic isn’t exactly intuitive. You won’t instantly know what to do, but once you’ve wrapped your head around it, it’ll be second nature and you’ll be moving around the world and carefully sculpting your blob into the right shape to get through that tiny hole while hanging over the bubbling magma pool.
Aside from endless regeneration, you blob can also consume organic beings and the game keeps a score of how many you’ve eaten in a level. I would’ve loved it if consuming other beings had a mechanical effect, such as making the blob grow or perhaps imbuing the mushroom with some strange properties, but they’re merely there for scoring purposes. At the end of each of the seven levels, you’ll see how many you’ve eaten and how much time it took to complete the level. During my time at EGX, Untame had a speedrunning competition going for the game, with the winners earning a nifty Mushroom 11 cap. I can certainly see speedrunning in this game’s future, though I’ll be really impressed if someone manages to do it with the second half of the game.
Mushroom 11 has one of the steepest difficulty curves I’ve ever seen and experienced in a video game. The difficulty doesn’t so much spike as shoot into the stratosphere starting with Chapter 5. I thought I the frustration on chapter 6 would kill me…then I got to the last level. The constant introduction of new puzzle types and mechanical elements compounds the difficulty curve issue, as the game never stops bringing in new elements. During the first three or four stages the puzzles start off easy to acclimate you to the new elements, be they knobs you can hang from, water and buoyancy or a caustic purple liquid that eats your entire blob if you don’t cut the affected parts off. But after the halfway mark you get thrown off the deep end, and let me tell you it’s very deep indeed. Chapter 6 and 7 are particularly bad, the former with rockets that move depending on the way you distribute your body weight hanging over them and the latter with spike puzzles/mazes. To add some context to that last statement I’ll just say that Professor Light must have created the blob, because it reacts to spikes the same way Mega Man does: very badly.
The way the game keeps introducing elements sometimes made me feels as if this was only part of a bigger game. It felt as though these were the introductory levels on a much bigger adventure. But it isn’t, it’s a short and rather unforgiving journey.
The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where humans aren’t around anymore though you can still see the remains of their society. Mushroom 11 doesn’t have a traditional plot and beyond getting to the end of each level there isn’t much in the way of storytelling, but instead the story of the world is all around you. In the cities there are posters, warning signs and graffiti, each with their own message, and you can use them to piece together the events that brought the world to its current state. Mushroom 11 takes you through farmlands, volcanic zones and even abandoned research facilities with strange notes, what seem like cloning facilities and even nurseries. But much like Dark Souls, Gone Home or similar games, it’s up to you to find the plot. I have my theories on what happened to this world and just what your blob is, but I won’t share them. I don’t want my take on this world to influence yours.
Visual design is one of the game’s strongest points. The zones are varied and despite the lack of human presence, some of them look very much alive, just a world where nature took back what we took during our time on the planet. Creature design is superb, especially the bosses, my favourite being the Tank Worm, a giant worm inside a metal, rocket-launching wheel of death. It’s also my favourite boss in the game. Boss visual design also helps you out by making their weak points very obvious.
The blob itself is the best part of the game’s visuals. You can see the individual cells that make up its body and when you cut it in pieces you can see where each of those fit together to form the blob. Its appearance shifts immediately as you erase it and more than once I laughed when it accidentally adopted a familiar form, such as a pig or a bird.
Sound design is also quite good. Sound effects are great and each creature and object in the world has its own identifying effect, including the blob as it grows and slouches. The music, composed by FSL (Future Sound of London) is outstanding. While each zone has a fantastic beat, there’s also an element of mystery to the pieces, one that invites and urges exploration and discovery. If you have ever played Metroid Prime, the first level of the game will remind you of it just on music alone. The greatest accomplishment of the game’s sound is that the constant sound of erasing and regrowth never drowns out other ambient effects and the music.
Mushroom 11 is a hard game, one that can even get frustrating due to its unforgiving difficulty spike, but hidden in it are perhaps hundreds of stories about a post-apocalyptic world, its origins and present. It also has one of the most creative and ingenious central mechanics I have ever seen in my gaming life.
4/5 – Exceptional!