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Mush (browser) review

 
Mush logo
Mush logo
Mush logo

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: Browser (reviewed)
 
Genre: , , ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
2 total ratings

 

We liked?


  • Each character has a different role to play, and the game has a great deal for each to do
  • A social game to its core, players do need to form a complete, co-operating crew to survive
  • Not knowing who other players are means you can focus on fulfilling your role - glory-hogging is possible but unlikely

Not so much?


  • From when you begin playing, you need to be able to check-in with the game every few hours - and it doesn't stop for several days
  • Too many AFK players can cripple the crew
  • The graphics may appeal in a retro fashion, but that doesn't make them pretty
  • Without paying for gold membership at least once, you're limited to one available skill - which can restrict your utility on board


Final Fiendish Findings?

Mush is a curious and interesting thing. As a social game, it fulfils its role by requiring communication and co-operation, even when other players are actively working against you. Trying to keep the ship working and everyone alive means there is always something to do, but this also becomes a headache when the game runs 24/7 and you will likely find yourselves having to cover for players who start and never return.

0
Posted November 14, 2013 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Mush is not the game I expected it to be. The initial description, with the crew of a spaceship having to identify hidden aliens among them sounded like an online version of the party game Mafia/Werewolf. However, it is far, far more than that and stronger for it.

Developed by Motion Twin, Mush follows the format of their other games such as Die2Nite, DinoRPG and MyBrute - it is browser-based and free-to-play with the standard cash shop. And while the flood of generic and derivative games online means the term ‘browser-based’ can seem like a stigma, Mush is a good example of how to use do it well.

On starting, you choose one of 16 crew members, each with their role to play – a commander who can issue instructions to the central computer, a technician to repair things as they break, a cook to ready meals for example. You begin leaving a cryogenic chamber into a isometric displayed room… one that would have not been graphically demanding even two decades ago. Visuals are probably the weakest point of Mush, being functional at best, albeit in a way that appeals to an old gamer.
Mush screen - bridge
The game is role-playing in the original meaning of the term. While it is played online, it is not a game you play with friends – there are no markers giving players’ names, and you are left just playing the role of the character you’ve chosen. Likewise, all you know of the other players are the characters – they are simply who they represent and… Say, is he acting suspiciously?

Because the only other thing you know of the characters is that two of them – possibly even you on starting – is secretly an alien intruder, trying to subvert the mission and infect the humans. Only one human – Chun – is immune, leaving suspicions about everyone else.

And believe me, there are suspicions. Imagine a playable version of The Thing on the set of Alien, and you’re in the right area.

So some of the crew are working against you, but that’s all you need worry about. Well, that and the attacking alien ships, the ship needs a lot of maintenance and upgrading, there is limited oxygen, fuel and food, contact with Sol has been lost, and crew can fall sick with diseases. It’s a tough universe out there, and on the whole it wants you dead.

The actual mechanics of the game are handled via action points (AP), movement points(MP), special skill points (if applicable), and three-hour cycles. Movement within a room is a free action, but moving room-to-room costs a movement point, resulting in a little planning and knowledge of the ship’s layout helping.

An average action can cost two points, although this varies for some tasks; specialist skills can also give bonus points too. However, when these are gone you have to either wait for the next turn (and will gain a bonus if you are resting at this point), or eat rations.
Mush screen - dorm
You gain small amounts of XP per turn which can be spent levelling characters (and carried from game to game), adding extra skills to your starting one. Players who pay cash can buy 31 days worth of gold membership that allows up to four skill slots for this time; players who pay once get a second skill slot unlocked indefinitely, while free players are limited to the single one.

This is probably one of the biggest handicaps the game presents – later in the game, as crew members are dying and handling the ship falls to a more hardened few, having certain extra skills allows them to double up roles. Without this, they are likely to be burning their AP and hoping their priorities are right. Harsh in game terms, although admittedly tense for the player.

In terms of game design, there are two problems – and they won’t be problems for everybody. Firstly, the three hour cycles work well to keep players synchronised, but also mean the game runs 24hrs. You’re asleep, there’s a couple of cycles gone. You’re at work or school, there’s another three or four. AP and MP gained stack (up to a cap), allowing bursts of activity when you’re available, but it does also mean that reacting and interacting can be limited.

Secondly, the idea of a relatively small team of characters (and so, players) is great for forcing reliance on each other – but this becomes a problem when people start the game and then just go AFK. The game does have mechanics to handle this – a player with maxed out MP and AP is considered absent, the central computer will delegate their roles to the next eligible character, and in an emergency assassination is possible to step into a dead man’s shoes.
Mush screen - turret
(As happened in one game played – with the commander AFK but not having reached the state of being absent, taking control of the ship was pressing thanks to a lack of oxygen and incoming asteroids.

Did I mention the ship is vulnerable to asteroids too? Add that to the “things the universe wants to kill you with” list)

Mush is a social game behind masks. You deal with strangers, trying to read their actions and knowing they are doing the same to you. Having to fill a role carries a curious amount of pressure, but it also seems to attract players willing to forgive mistakes if made with good reason (my first play involved some howlers; explaining I was a new player lead to a lot of advice coming in turn, letting me do far better by the end, even if that end did involve our corpses floating through space).

In conclusion

Mush is a curious and interesting thing. As a social game, it fulfils its role by requiring communication and co-operation, even when other players are actively working against you. Trying to keep the ship working and everyone alive means there is always something to do, but this also becomes a headache when the game runs 24/7 over several days and you will likely find yourselves having to cover for players who start and never return.

While the game does allow your actions to stack on unused turns, it doesn’t change the fact that the ideal player will be in a position to check in every three-to-six hours, and anyone with a busier life is going to be trying to keep up the whole time. But with that said, if you can fit a little time playing with 15 strangers into your day, then Mush has enough depth to reward that time.

Mush is played through it’s own website here. The page also has an interactive trailer (see if you can beat the ship’s computer at ‘Ping’ – I couldn’t…)


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.