We eat them, we use them as dyes and medicine has evolved by leaps and bounds in no small part because of them (among other less orthodox uses) – and now, we get to play them. Mushroom 11 is a puzzle platformer where you play a blob of fungal growth, and it sprouts onto Steam on the 15th of October. I’ve had my hands on it for a few days and have played a couple of its chapters, so I’ll give you the lowdown on this indie platformer.
Mushroom 11 isn’t your traditional, jump chasms and boop enemies type of platformer – instead, it reminded me of Wii’s Fluidity and masterpiece World of Goo. You control it with a single tool, the ability to destroy sections of varying size across its body and, if it’s touching a surface, the destroyed sections will sprout elsewhere, creating movement. Despite the heterodoxy of its controls, manipulating the fungus was intuitive and I soon knew which parts I had to erase in order to sprout them somewhere I needed the additional size.
While your tools don’t evolve as you play the game, the environment does. By the second chapter I already had to contend with seesaws, timed sections and doors which only opened if I managed to spread my fungus across different sections at the same time. Hazards also become multiple, from falling into pits of lava to rotting from the inside-out because of a spider’s touch. It didn’t take me long to mature my skills of control over Mr. Fungus, as before I knew it I had to trim it down gently, instead of mowing entire sections off as I initially did, reaching out to ledges and corridors with only the tiniest bit of fungus to spare, only to erase everything behind it afterwards and watch the fungus grow back into life on the other side of the chasm.
As any good physics-based puzzle platformer, things in Mushroom 11 aren’t as clear-cut as in other platformers: while you don’t require the pixel-perfect precision some platformers do, you also lose some degree of control to the chaos that a growing lifeform is. When you erase a section of your fungus there’s no telling where it’ll grow, aside from knowing it won’t grow where you just erased it. This wasn’t much of an issue when I was carelessly growing myself through the easier sections, but when trying to form a bridge over a large chasm or reach the collectible insect that’s just out of reach, some patience and persistence was required.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the aesthetics of the game. As you can see from the screenshots above, the barren wasteland you must traverse has a beauty of its own, and each chapter adds some variety with different scenarios and color palettes. The soundtrack is made by The Future Sound of London, a band that with its electronic music and even an album named Dead Cities is more than appropriate for the setting and game.
As I tried to preserve my fungus, watching it contract to naught but single cell and then expand to its former, green glory, I realized Mushroom 11, with its different take on puzzle platforming and enthralling aesthetics, had managed to grow on me. I suggest you keep an eye on it, with little more than a week for it to come out, as I suspect fans of puzzle platforming will be positively infected by Mushroom 11 and its fungal protagonist.