Mushroom 11 is a situation where the concept has been fully realized at the expense of being something fun and enjoyable. In Mushroom 11 you play as an amoebae-like creature that survived a nuclear incident of some kind. Story isn’t the main focus, rather it's all about moving the blob around levels to reach the finish line. Mushroom 11, more so than any other game I’ve played this year, has a unique and interesting gameplay mechanic that feels right in step with titles that come out of game jams. Everything about Mushroom 11 feels fresh and new but the reality of the gameplay is such that no matter how good the execution is, there are times where the mechanics just aren’t fun.
The premise is simple, you control a blob and you need it to get to the end of the level. To make this happen you need to push your little blob along, cut it in half, make it climb and make it dig like only your blob can. Doing this is simple, at first, as the only control you have is using the mouse as an “eraser” of sorts. By erasing the back end of the blob, it’ll regenerate its front half. Consistency is the name of the game in that how you cut your blob apart or erase it is directly correlated to how it will react. Erase the back end while your blob faces a hole and it’ll move forward, squeezing itself into the tunnel like a rushing river. The beginning stages do a fair enough job of explaining how the blob works but it’s the later stages that develop cracks in the game’s mechanics.
If consistency is the name of the game with regards to the blob, inconsistency is the name of the game when it comes to the platforming. Too often Mushroom 11 will ask something of the player that seems impossible. I can assure you that nothing in this game is that difficult, but there are some puzzles that will have you banging your head against a wall. Unfortunately, solving these puzzles often ended with me not understanding what I’d done differently to make a successful run. To me, I just followed the same path but this time my blob extended and fell at just the right angle to catch the ledge. This sense of randomness is infuriating as you die over and over again, not understanding what the game wants you to do. I felt like I was never learning how to play, just stumbling into the solution via dumb luck.
What’s worse is that the game finds its groove far too late. Towards the end of the game there are puzzles that feel like they were made for this game alone. It does everything it can to utilize the blob's skills, but it’s too late at that point. Players that reach the end might not feel the excitement because they’ve already been damaged by earlier frustrations. That type of development is unfortunate to see, where the best parts are hidden behind difficult stages. The same can be said for the boss fights, which I found to be enjoyable, as they show up right after some of the most exhausting puzzles. Boss fights do a great job of making you use everything you learned all at once, but having to play one right after a platforming section that felt forced is a shame. It takes away from the excitement a bit.
One place that Mushroom 11 doesn’t falter is its graphics. That goes double for audio. The post-apocalyptic world looks so interesting, bleak and truly unique in its style, which is saying something for such an overused backdrop. Critters you run into during the game look appropriately bright, as if exposed to large amounts of radiation in a cartoonish way, and your blob, despite its shortcomings, moves and animates incredibly well. It was fun to just sit there and cut up the blob to see what would happen, watching it grow back in all sorts of weird ways. The sound as well is a great joy in Mushroom 11 as everything sounds squishy when it interacts with the blob and the other critters in the world sound appropriately distressed. The world has a weight to it and it’s one that is easily noticeable thanks to great visuals and audio.
Despite those positives it’s hard to recommend Mushroom 11. If you’re into seeing the experimental side of games or experiencing something completely unique and new in terms of gameplay then go right ahead and play Mushroom 11. Just be warned that you’re in for a lot of head scratching and confusion when it comes to the puzzles. Mushroom 11 does a great job of realizing a concept and sticking to it, it’s just too bad that concept falters as much as it does, making the game feel like a big miss instead of an indie darling.