Nov 092015
 

Status: I got to this part in chapter 7 with a wheel and I just wasn’t interested in continuing.

Most Intriguing Idea: A totally new kind of puzzle-platformer.

Best Design Decision: The novel motion of the slime mold.

Worst Design Decision: The incredible slog of chapter 7.

Summary:

I loved Mushroom 11. Then I liked it. Then I tolerated it. Then I hated it, and that’s pretty much where I stopped.

I loved it at the start because it has a fresh and original gameplay idea. Instead of controlling a little dude, as you generally do in platformers, you have control of a slime mold which you can control by erasing it using the mouse. Because the blob will grow to retain the same area as long as it is touching the ground or most other objects, this forms the basis of motion as well as a number of reaching and balancing puzzles. There’s a lot of joy in the motion of this blob, especially when it’s squirting through cracks or narrow tunnels in the ground.

Around the fifth chapter, though, Mushroom 11 starts to run into some problems. One of these is that the chapters start to get pretty long, and their pacing is not ideal. Basically the player has to go from frustrating puzzle to frustrating puzzle with very few sections of free movement to serve as a reminder why this game was fun at one point. A little editing, or a choice to make a lot of the puzzles optional, would have served the game better.

The puzzles, too, have a variety of problems. The easy thing to say is: they’re too hard. I suspect that the developers played their own game too much while designing it, and this convinced them to increase the difficulty and length beyond what a relative novice would be interested in (the 7% completion rate for the game would seem to bear this out).  More specifically, I noticed two pervasive problems with the puzzles. The first is that they don’t really accommodate the lack of control the player has over the slime mold’s growth. This means the player gets into a lot of frustrating situations because the mold grew into just the wrong place, or especially that the wrong piece grows if it has been split.

The second problem is that every puzzle seems to go a step too far. The puzzle that made me really see that was one where the goal is to roll a round of hay across two gaps and onto a bunch of spikes where it can serve as a bridge. So, the slime mold must get the hay bale rolling (a balancing puzzle), sprint out to cover the first gap where the landscape made it quite likely that the hay bale would roll backwards or get stuck, squirt through an underground tunnel to make a ramp across the next gap, then extend across that gap, then over the hay bale to the next safe spot. I think any four of those would have been fine, but requiring success in all five steps dramatically increased the chances of failing the whole challenge. Without any way to recover from a midpoint, I had to tediously attempt the puzzle over and over.

This sort of thing happened with almost every puzzle in the late game. While some puzzles had more ordinary problems (wonky physics, nonsense solutions, etc.) the main thing that made me hate Mushroom 11 was that every puzzle went just a step too far, and knowing that even if I got past that, all that awaited me was an endless succession of more puzzles that all went a step too far. Still, I love the concept and the general aesthetic, and for those alone I think it’s worth giving this game a chance. Just don’t count on reaching the end.

Verdict: Cautiously recommended.

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