Mushroom 11 / 17th of December 2014
It is quite difficult to describe the feeling of playing Untame’s Indie Fund backed project, Mushroom 11, it is at once completely alien and yet utterly familiar; it is certainly a novel concept, and yet it is also intuitive enough for any gamer to simply pick up and feel right at home with. And so, after having had the privilege of spending some time with a preview build of this up-coming puzzler, I thought it best to tell you why this is one game that might just be worth looking out for when it launches in early 2015.
Given the style of the game, there will undoubtedly be those who will spot similarities to 2D Boy’s World of Goo, a title that the developers hold up as an inspiration for the Mushroom 11 project, and they do share some similarities, yet feel somehow as though they are utterly unique entries into the genre. It is worth noting that Indie Fund was actually established by 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler, along with Jonathan Blow, Kellee Santiago and more. The group have built up a reputation of funding interesting, artistic titles of promise, and in Mushroom 11, they are certainly going to maintain this excellent track record.
This project began life way back in 2012 when Itay Keren and his wife Julia Keren-Detar derived inspiration from the theme of Ouroboros to conceive a game concept based entirely around a continuous cycle of progress and obliteration. There is certainly no denying that the idea is somewhat unique, as is the developer’s approach to narrative, which will effectively be told through a series of twenty-one posters scattered across the game’s seven expansive levels, these will hint at the basis of the story, allowing the player’s imagination to fill in the blanks, creating an ambiguous tale that will likely differ from gamer to gamer.
In Mushroom 11, players control what can best be described as a corpulent blob, which they must guide across puzzle strewn levels by erasing areas of its sizeable bulk. What happens here, is that when the player uses the eraser, the removed mass is quickly added back onto the creature, but at the opposite side from which it was first removed, thereby forcing the creature to “move” in that particular direction. Once underway, it will begin to feel strange that this particular concept has never been utilised before, and it is only within minutes of playing that the tasks asked of the player will begin to feel entirely natural and intuitive to them. Testament, surely, to the team’s highly focused vision and excellent level design.
Early on, the game simply asks that players guide the creature through a series of narrow tunnels, but soon, such primitive challenges give way to far more complex pieces of design that see the player attempting to avoid pits of lava, overcoming strange enemies, or using parts of the scenery to further their advance. Mushroom 11 is ultimately, a physics based puzzle game, and it could very well be the best of its ilk for quite some time.
In terms of aesthetics, Mushroom 11 presents its players with an intriguing post-apocalyptic world to navigate, packed with layers of scenery that move from the beautiful flourishes of highly detailed foreground to the near colourless expanse that dutifully fills in the blanks of this world gone wrong. Of course, the real star of the show is the creature itself, as its bulk expands and withdraws all too naturally, yet there is something wholly mechanised about it, something unsettling. It vaguely brings to mind the red weed from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds or John Carpenter’s The Thing, yet without the sinister intentions of either, it, much like the game itself, feels unique, as though it is entirely its own entity, which only helps to draw the player into its universe. As a side note, the style of the game was actually based on a TED Talks discussion, “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World” which was delivered in 2008 by mycologist, Paul Stamets.
To complement the excellent, stylised visuals, developer, Untame, recruited the electronica legends, Future Sound of London, to provide an eerie, atmospheric score that perfectly encapsulates the dystopian feeling of the game through wonderfully minimalist compositions that are a far cry from the earlier, Dead Cities-era compositions that worked their way onto Psygnosis’ Wipeout 2097. It is surely a masterful combination, however, and another clear reason as to why Mushroom 11 will surely be one to watch out for when it launches in April next year.