Goo. Goo never changes…
Luckily game designs do, and given enough time a game designer will come along and take known genre concepts and spin them on their head. Every once in a while something unexpected and brilliant comes out of it. Easy to understand why we at GoneWithTheWin enjoy exploring so many indie titles, because twisting concepts, or mashing up unexpected genres will happen more often than not when the goal in the “indie scene” is to stand out. Being different and unique could mean getting noticed by more gamers. Mushroom 11 is different, and it stands out quite a bit. Its unique style and polished execution of them, has coalesced into a great adventure. Released today on Steam, and from where we’re sitting, it’s definitely worth it’s weight in goo.
When you think of platformers several of them might come to mind which involve a protagonist that jumps on, slashes, shoots, or punches his enemies away. You may think of precision jumping across dangerous chasms. Most platformers feature a scrappy hero with a name, and a reason for his crusade across menacing two dimensional paths littered with enemies. Mushroom 11 does none of these things, you don’t jump or slash or punch; you grow, you stiffen, you split up, and you protrude your way to the end. You are a green fungal entity that can only “die” if you are entirely consumed by something, otherwise you just grow back. You do not avoid danger, you figure out a way to consume it. You don’t jump over chasms, you shape your way over them.
Mushroom 11 has been polished and worked over so that every section presents puzzles or dangers. You are constantly pushing, smearing, and splitting your pile of goop into tunnels, switches, over/under/between dangers precipices and more. Puzzles change and vary, constantly keeping you on your toes. You manipulate your growth using your mouse as a swirly “brush” or “eraser”. Two different types of eraser styles are available, a normal big circle sized and a smaller point for refined actions. The eraser you control actually erases the area of green goop that it comes in contact with, causing it to reform on the opposite end. This erasure principle also applies to lava, acid, and mutated spiders that you come across. Should half of it fall into such devastating elements, it will simply reform on the other half that’s safely on land. While you are erasing the amoeba creature is becomes fluid, leave it alone and it turns into a hardened block. Using either form is critical for manipulating and controlling the environment in your favor.
With these unique qualities, multiple puzzle solving capabilities emerge. For example, you are in a tunnel, and that tunnel empties out over a pool of molten hot lava. There’s a ledge beneath you to the right leading to another area. You have to shape your entity towards it carefully, pushing one piece in the back, so it grows in the front. As you push the organism is more fluid-like, mold the middle area so it pushes to the right. With a little touch, it will be in contact with the ledge. Now you can freely erase all the back sections and watch it grow from the point into the next tunnel. That’s just one of the easier obstacles. Scenarios quickly get more difficult than that, where you will knowingly sacrifice most of your goo just to propel a tiny fraction of it further using a physics based swing or see-saw. Once across the rest will grow back, and the quest goes onward.
Plants, creatures, and most living organisms can seemingly be absorbed for additional DNA points as collectibles. These are scattered around in either “right in front of you” form or “off the beaten path” harder to reach areas. The real gems in gameplay is coming across the bosses at the end of each level. These monstrous mutants guard your road to ascension and self-understanding. Unlike the static puzzles you’ve been facing for the most part. These bosses move and push you apart to keep you away from the vital organic tissues you need to absorb to defeat them. These bosses I found were the best part of each stage.
Mushroom 11 oozes personality and it’s own charm, and that goes beyond the clever puzzles and simple control scheme. Detailed background atmospheres paint the grim picture of what happened before. Creatures range from fluorescent mushrooms and bugs to mutated monstrosities in the dark. All the spiny tingly details flow and resonate with the post apocalyptic destruction. This grim atmosphere is a constant reminder of “What happened here?”, “how did this green “goo” come to exist?”, “How did everyone die?” and other riddles.
Mysterious chimes and rings meld with the synthetic sounds in the game’s soundtrack, to drive the alien yet familiar world you are playing in. Absorbed lifeforms chirp, your gooey movements bubble and slurp, the symphony of strange sounds mirrors your parade through the ruined visages of future Earth. Together with the art design, Mushroom 11 sets an all encompassing and appealing stage to experiment on
At times it’s easy to get caught up in the novel concepts in movement, art, musical score, and platform design in Mushroom 11 that it can be easy to forget it does have some negatives that are worth mentioning. For long stretches of each level I found myself repeating the same motions over and over again to reach a ledge beneath me. While I understand what I have to do, fighting with the squirmy goop can happen all too often. One puzzle you have to make your entity stand upright to reach the ledge. In another, you have to stand up in the same fashion to absorb a blue bug for DNA points. In another, you have to stand up straight to turn on three buttons to open a door. What I’m getting at is the puzzles while they look different are solved in essentially the same fashion. More than a handful of times per level I would mistakenly swipe my green “anchor” away and repeatedly die at the same trap. Granted there are numerous checkpoints along the way, that minimize frustrating replay. I also found myself a little bored here and there just running through the motions of pushing my goopy dude over another hurdle, usually there was something interesting over the horizon that changed that feeling, like a boss battle.
The game is comprised of 7 levels, once it’s complete will you be compelled to return? You can race and complete levels under par if you wish. Or collect all the DNA on each level. I wasn’t compelled to try any of these additional options, or replay levels. That could mean re-playability maybe an issue for some.
Developer Untame has done a tremendous job in not only coming up with a novel new approach to platformers but in ensuring a polished well made product hits the digital store shelves. True, pushing a button to get through a door isn’t a new concept for games, but doing so with a regenerating fluid puddle of goop is. Enveloping bosses, landing on the right side of a fulcrum to lift boulders blocking your way, splitting your entity up to trigger buttons, and then push a piece of you onto a lift to escape, are just some of the great moments to be had.
Everyone that’s watched me play this game during this pre-release period has pulled a chair alongside and wanted to try it out, and then enjoyed it. The goo becomes an instant lovable figure in just seconds. An instant pick up and play for all kinds of player types, but you’ll spend considerable amount of mastering plenty of the more difficult puzzles. As such Mushroom 11 an easy and urgent recommendation for anyone looking for something “new and unique”, puzzle and exploration fans, platformer fans, and even casual gamers despite the harder curve later on.