Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars

Written by Joe Martin

March 21, 2009 | 09:13

Tags: #platformer #wii

Companies: #gamecock-media #pax

Spore Wars

A mushroom walks into a bar, walks up to the bartender and asks for a drink. The bartender says no, the mushroom says why not, the bartender says they don't serve his kind there.

Aw, c'mon,” says the mushroom “I'm a fun guy!

I like that joke, but even I have to recognise in telling it that the fun guy/fungi pun falls a little flat when it's written down like that. Likewise, Red Fly Studios should have recognised the fact that although the art and sound direction for Mushroom Men is really great, the framework of a formulaic 3D platformer isn't the way to make the most of these points.

As a meteor-saturated Bolete Cap mushroom, the general idea of the game is to use your unique range of mystical powers to proceed through the linear levels, defeating enemies as you go with equal parts of hack and slash. The main thing which supposedly distinguishes Mushroom Men from other third-person action games is the fact that you can collect pieces of human junk from throughout the levels and piece them together to make new weapons. A paperclip here, a rubber band there – boom, you've got yourself a new chainsaw staff!

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars - Conclusions

Along the way you also get to upgrade and unlock other abilities, most of which are geared towards solving simple physics puzzles and defeating enemies, such as being able to pick up objects that are coated with meteor dust and pelt your enemies with them. That or just move them out of your way.

The main issue though is that the levels, abilities and weapons each run an all-too familiar glut that even the games sprinkling of light-hearted humour can't raise out of tedium. The game narration and characters mainly speak through on-screen text rather than actual voice-overs, which quickly raised within us a desire to just hammer through the usual introductory drivel if we're honest. Luckily this didn't impact on the game experience too much because it was so familiar we could pilot Pax almost solely on instinct if needed.

Nothing in the game's control system or feature-set is, in reality, particularly striking. To attack with your melee weapons you swing the Wii remote, steering Pax throughout the selection of forest and mine-based levels with the C-stick on the nunchuck and blocking with the Z-key. Psychic powers meanwhile are unleashed using a cursor on the screen which changes when it hits something it can interact with. So far, so m'eh.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars - Conclusions

This isn't to say that the game is all that bad though. The 3D platform world that the designers have put together is uniquely captured and utterly functional despite a slightly awkward camera system that needs more correction than a supermodel in a spelling quiz.
Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars - Conclusions
Unfortunately though, being purely functional isn't really enough to make the game stand out in our eyes and there's a pervasive feeling that Red Fly Studios has done an injustice to the rich fiction it has created here.

The storyline draws divides between the different races of mushroom, pitting them both against each other and the inhospitality of the world around them which has been unfairly accelerated by that freak comet. Rather than actually doing something interesting with this idealogical divide between Morels and Boletes, Mushroom Men is just another platformer that gets lost in the morass of similar games on the platform. The running, jumping and gliding mechanics are all utterly as you'd expect them to be, though maybe a tiny bit clunkier that you might hope, and the gameplay as a whole fails to dazzle.

At the end of the day, that really is the fairest way to describe Mushroom Men too; as just another platformer. It isn't a bad game once you get into it, but it isn't one that's anywhere near as exciting as we might have hoped and while the art design and music for the game are well-deserving of praise, it's a shame that nothing else in Mushroom Men really is.

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