I’ve written about a few games on this site that take place in post-apocalyptic landscapes. There’s been Sunset Overdrive, Fallout 4, and even Splatoon. And Saints Row: Gat out of Hell takes place after the literal destruction of the earth, so I guess that counts, too. But those settings all have one thing in common: there are still humans, or something equivalent in the case of Splatoon. But who’s to say any semblance of humanity would remain after our world ends? In Mushroom 11 we see a different kind of landscape, where humanity’s technology and advancements have been left to rot, and disgusting mutated creatures roam the landscape. All of this is in the background of a decent puzzle platformer with some great ideas, not all of which quite work out.
In Mushroom 11 you play as…well, I would assume some sort of fungus based on the title, but it’s really left open to interpretation. For all intents and purposes, you’re playing as a big green blob. Well, technically, you aren’t playing as anything, but you are sort of controlling the blob. The blob has no way of moving on its own; you have to let physics take control. In that sense, it’s a bit like Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, but the tool at your disposal is very different.
Rather than creating, you need to erase parts of the blob. Other parts will grow to make up for this, and by constantly changing the shape, you can move it around. Erasing is simply a matter of holding down the mouse button and keeping the cursor over the part you want to erase. You have two sizes of “eraser,” but I’ve only really used the bigger one. Once you have that down, it’s just a matter of solving some platforming puzzles. When you start, all of this is very confusing. The ways to get the blob moving in different directions and speeds are far from intuitive, and if you’re like me, it will take you a long time to figure out what actions cause what results.
At first I wanted to take my time with each part of each of the nine stages, molding my blob into just the right shape for the task at hand. However, as it took me far too long to realize, sometimes that’s not an option. In many cases you need to act fast. The key to remember is that as long as a tiny bit of your blob is where you want it to be, you can get the rest there too. That said, the blob won’t regrow unless you’re on solid ground. Frankly, I could keep explaining the mechanics of Mushroom 11, but it wouldn’t really help; you need to figure it out through trial and error.
Make no mistake, this game gets incredibly frustrating. At first, I could barely get past the second boss; I just kept getting stuck at this one early section of the third level. But, I came back later and after quite a while I managed to make it work. If you appreciate a good challenge and don’t mind having to play the same part over and over until you get it, Mushroom 11 is quite rewarding. Fortunately, there are abundant checkpoints, so you don’t have to go back through too much if you fail. If there were any fewer checkpoints I’m not sure the frustration would be worth it.
So, whether you’ll enjoy the gameplay depends on how perseverent you’re willing to be; you really have to stop and think about each “puzzle.” The idea is excellent and very creative; I can honestly say that Mushroom 11 is very different from any other game I’ve played. Whether the game is fun is harder to say, because it truly does get insanely frustrating. At first, I was not really a fan, but it did grow on me.
But there is, of course, more to a game than the gameplay. When it comes to graphical style, Mushroom 11 once again comes in with something unique. Though it’s mostly just in backgrounds, Mushroom 11 shows a world crowded, polluted, and ultimately left by humans. What exactly happened to the people is left to the imagination, but everything remaining is mutated and disgusting. If gross imagery is a problem for you, you might not enjoy this game, especially the bosses. I’m still haunted by the horrifyingly disgusting appearance of the third boss.
This is by design; if I had to guess, I’d say the game is meant to show what human industry does and will do to the world. The ending, which I won’t spoil, ties into this theme. Fortunately, though it is quite clear that there’s an environmentalism message at play in Mushroom 11, the game doesn’t beat you over the head with it. As I briefly touched upon with Pony Island, I’m not a fan of indie games that get too pretentious, so I’m glad the developers found a powerful way to make the message known without going overboard on symbolism.
As challenging, frustrating, and disgusting as it is, I recommend at least trying Mushroom 11. And I would add that you should give it a proper try; if you get stuck, leave the game for a while and try again. The gameplay is creative and unique, and at least deserves that. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone; some of the puzzles will drive you mad, and I know I’m not the only one sensitive to gross imagery. But what Untame has put together is clever and creative, and definitely worth at least a step out of your comfort zone.
Fun, but not for the squeamish
Gameplay - 7/10
Style - 10/10
Challenge - 7/10
+ Unique physics-based gameplay
+ Evocative graphical style
+ Clever stage design
– High difficulty curve
– A bit too evocative in graphical style