What’s in a name
Of all the gaming genres, it must be platform games that have the oddest names. You don’t believe me? Okay, how about… Banjo Kazooie or… de Blob or the craziest of them all, LocoRoco. I rest my case. Publisher SouthPeak Games adds yet another one to this illustrious bunch with Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars, a new platform game for the Nintendo Wii.
The storyline of Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is intimately tied to its little brother Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi for the Nintendo DS. Chronologically, one would have to play Rise of the Fungi first before jumping into the colorful world of Spore Wars. Rest assured though that you don’t need to own both platforms to enjoy either of these two games alone.
In Spore Wars, you play mushroom Pax, the last remaining survivor of the Bolete tribe. The Bolete have been wiped out by the Amanita and Lepiota tribes and they are about to do the same with the Morel tribe. Wait a minute, sentient mushrooms? How did that happen!? Well, that is one of the things that Pax sets out to learn.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Mushroom
It is true that Pax is only a small mushroom but looks can be deceiving. He is a skilled and ferocious fighter with moves that would make Master Splinter nod in approval. He creates his own weapons from items found in the gameworld. Like a regular McGuyver, he puts together a pencil, three toothpicks and a piece of string, making a fierce weapon that fends off even the most dangerous of foes. A chain, bottle cap and a safety pin become a malicious flail that slaps the live out of beasts ten times his size. In short, Pax is one very dangerous man, erm… Mushroom.
Putting weapons together is done from a separate menu that shows four rows of dimmed weapons, each row depicting a different class or type. As soon as you have the right items in your inventory, weapons that can be assembled light up on the row. Items can be used only once, and some items can be used for multiple weapons. It may be worth waiting to build new weapons until you find the missing pieces of some strong weapon later on as some items will only turn up once or twice during the entire game.
A good platformer will have you run, jump fight and solve puzzles to get through each of its levels. Mushroom Men is no different. The puzzles are fresh and innovative and there is often more than one way to solve them. In one of the earlier levels for instance, a talking vine asks your help defeating the rabbits that have infested the house that it is guarding and are nibbling at its roots. You can either go head to head against the humongous beasts, or find other ways to defeat them. Smartly, the game introduces you to these other ways gently by giving you a hint on how to dispose of the first rabbit. This is done in such a way that you know how to deal with others in similar but more difficult situations.
The game does a good job of guiding the player in other areas as well. One of the overall objectives is gathering as many small pieces of meteorite as you can. Some of them are incredibly hard to get to and could have turned playing Mushroom Men into a frustrating experience. Fortunately, you do not have to get all of them to succeed. The path forward is usually cleared without too much trouble and while you can spend more time to solve a level with a 100% score, it is left up to the player whether he wants to spend the time to do so, or continue on. As a result, I felt completely in control of my own fate within the game, something that I have complained about with other platform games.
No Pros and Cons at this time