EGX Rezzed: Hands on – Mushroom 11
Mushroom 11 made an appearance at Rezzed last year, sitting in the Leftfield Collection as one of those games that is something “a little different”, and was occupied for long enough that I gave up getting a go on all three days. This year it appeared in the indie room, and I was determined to give it a try for myself… and in the process realised why I couldn’t get near a computer for it last year.
The setting is rather bleak – a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the ruins left behind by a lost human species only showing activity with still automated systems running, or more commonly with a handful of insects and plants finding niches to exist in. That, and the fungal matter of the title that the player gets to guide through this environment.
“Guide” is definitely the description – you do not directly control the amorphous biomass, but instead use the mouse cursor to destroy segments of it. But the organism will always retain its mass, so cells deleted from one point will regrow elsewhere. With a little experimentation you realise you can make it move, sculpt general shapes, absorb other creatures, split it into multiple segments, and take advantage of its mass.
The game’s physics takes advantage of all this, with puzzles to solve along the themed routes. Simple ones involve holding down buttons while another segment passed through a door, or fitting around strange shaped scenery to avoid dangers such as lava; a later, more involved one had the organism fitting around a valve handle, relying on its mass staying on one side so that its centre of gravity constantly twisted the valve open.
It’s the sort of concept that is rather hard to describe, yet when played quickly has an “ah ha!” moment; the gameplay trailer (linked above) provides a better demonstration.
Puzzles tend to be bookended with checkpoints, as the organism is still vulnerable to fire and poisons, and while cells regrow quickly they only do so when in contact with a surface…. having the last remaining cell fall into lava is a common sight before the near-instantaneous restart.
It also strikes a good balance – some puzzles seem to have multiple solutions, either planned or a happy accident of the underlying mechanics (but all seemingly considered legitimate); and whether getting killed and restarting, or spending time testing numerous possible solutions to a puzzle, there didn’t feel many moments that were frustrating. Eventually, my losses were met with a good humoured “huh”, and my mental toolkit of approaches would try to apply what I’d already learned to the next attempt.
How much did I enjoy playing Mushroom 11? I definitely occupied that seat for clear of an hour, eventually finding myself under the watchful eye of Itay Keren from developer Untame, and only stopping when an insistent security guard informed us (for the second time) that it was time to switch everything off.
This is definitely one of those titles that fits the description “unlike anything you’ve played before”, and has quickly jumped to become a title I’m looking forward to for its release later this year.
Mushroom 11 is due for release “mid 2015″.