It’s the end of the world as we know it. Giant spiders run free, gouts of lava flow over the surface, humans only seem to be survived by their decaying structures. A green blob rolls across the landscape, constantly reshaping itself to navigate the hazardous ruins of the old world, pushing on to parts unknown.
Mushroom 11, by Untame, is a somber-toned puzzle-platforming game where the player guides a shapeless mass of fungus through the post-apocalypse. You must brave collapsing buildings, abandoned machinery, and the strange new creatures which inhabit the wastes.
There is very little setup apart from that. The eponymous green fungoid is controlled entirely by “pushing” it’s cells around with the mouse in order to redistribute it’s mass. By “pruning” the edges of the blob you can move it or mold it into useful shapes. This straightforward mechanic allows for significant variation in mundane tasks: One can move the colony on flat ground by merely squishing it against the ground and repelling it towards it’s destination, or by building it up into a tower and rearranging weight so it continuously rolls forwards.
One of the few issues with this system are some intricacies which go unexplained, such as the way separated blobs can rejoin through solid objects or how the volume of the swarm is determined. This is fine, simply a lack of tutorials, but it does make the game a little difficult to pick up.
Mushroom 11 maintains an exceptionally strong and consistent tone. The visual design is excellent, with beautiful painted backgrounds and glowing sprites contrasting the strange beauty of the overgrown flora with the depressing grunge of decaying buildings and rusting machinery. It is deliberately ambiguous as to what happened to humanity, but some details like ominously placed skulls and graffiti take the imagination in interesting directions. Also of note is the strange yet soothing soundtrack, which somehow makes the game more optimistic and mysterious than depressing and grim, despite the subject matter.
The level design is also as much deliberate as it is beautiful. While some puzzles may be challenging, Mushroom features frequent checkpoints and a fast turnaround time to prevent frustration. It is surprising how much variety in level design was extracted from what is effectively a simple traversal mechanic. Some are normally mundane tasks like climbing ladders or moving platforms, others include shaping the swarm in such a way as to act as a ramp or fulcrum. The only real problem is that since the game is almost entirely physics driven with little scripting, some of the puzzles involving moving objects can act in (what one assumes are) unexpected ways with frustrating results. For example, riding a rolling spool across a body of water becomes a chore when falling off the far side causes it to bounce around and reverse your (slow) progress while also becoming difficult to re-mount without reloading the checkpoint.
Mushroom 11 is a quality physics-puzzle-platformer. While 15$ may be a bit steep for a game is at most 5-6hrs long, the gameplay is unique, the levels varied, and there is replay value to be had in the form of collectibles. What’s more, the audiovisual design makes for such an excellent experience that you might not notice.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
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