A very novel sort of puzzle “platformer”, Mushroom 11 sees you in command of a ball of cells. You cannot move it around directly, but you doA very novel sort of puzzle “platformer”, Mushroom 11 sees you in command of a ball of cells. You cannot move it around directly, but you do have the ability to erase cells, which causes the ball of cells to regrow said cells in some other location so long as the cells are touching a solid surface. By erasing cells, you can navigate the ball of cells through the levels, and even do such things as navigate through mine carts and steer rockets – all without any control over that the ability to delete cells where you want.
The game’s challenges are all fundamentally built around this central mechanic - growing along walls, creeping through tunnels, and otherwise making your way through the world. It is a very creative mechanic, and the game shows that there are a wide variety of things you can do with it. The early stages of the game feel very good, and you get to explore what it feels like to move the cells around and flow through narrow spaces and run over ground, both even and uneven.
Unfortunately, while the game shows that you CAN do a lot of things with it, by the end of chapter 6 you are left with the question of whether or not they SHOULD have done many of these things. As the game goes on, the puzzles grow ever more sophisticated, but chapters 4, 5, and 6 introduce a number of new stage mechanics which ultimately prove to be extremely frustrating due to your lack of control over the cells. The aforementioned mine carts are somewhat frustrating to deal with – if you touch the tracks the mine carts run on, all you cells die instantly, in sharp contrast with other challenges in the game, where only the cells in contact with the hazard die (or in some cases, where the hazard creeps through the cells and kills them). While this section is generally not too troublesome, there are a few places where you’re likely to touch the tracks while trying to set off the mine carts in the first place, which is very frustrating. Moreover, your inability to actually directly control your cells starts to rear its ugly head here, as you must fling yourself through the air to complete many of these obstacles – and flinging yourself through the air feels very finicky and hard to control, as very small differences in your starting trajectory make a huge difference.
This only gets worse over the course of the game. Later puzzles much more frequently involve such “flinging” of your cells, which is often very frustrating for how erratic the outcome tends to be. You also end up with an entire set of puzzles – air currents which buoy your cells through the air – which is entirely based around being in the air and unable to control yourself in any meaningful way after you’ve launched. Such sections feel less like puzzles and more like trial-and-error gameplay as you try to get things just right so you get flung on the right trajectory. What you need to do in these areas is obvious, but actually doing it is very difficult and oftentimes frustrating.
Chapter 6 introduces rockets which your cells can ride through the air, and which explode when they (or the cells) hit any wall. It is here that your lack of control is at its very worse – while the rockets can be controlled, they’re very difficult to steer, and just after you get the hang of steering them vertically, you start having to steer them horizontally, which is even more of a crapshoot. These sections are, again, not really puzzles at all, but rather, again, trial-and-error gameplay of the worst variety, and are extremely tedious. The fifth and sixth levels, due to their mechanics, took upwards of 90 minutes to complete apiece, and much of it was spent tediously trying to get just the right trajectory, rather than coming up with clever ways to exploit the game mechanics.
The collectibles in the game, too, are kind of obnoxious. Many of them require very tedious processes to reach; rather than being about your ability to solve puzzles, instead they test your willingness to sit there and do something like build a very tall tower out of the cells, or your willingness to sit there and try to achieve the right trajectories while flinging cells. While some of these puzzles are quite clever, others are quite tiresome, and worst of all, if you beat a stage and have missed some of the collectibles, they all reset – you have to get all 50 collectibles in a stage in a single run, which is very annoying given that you have no idea where you missed the collectibles and the more tedious-to-reach collectibles must be grabbed in the same tedious manner as they were the first time.
All that being said, there are definitely some bright spots to the game as well. The bosses get increasingly difficult as the game goes on, but are actually reasonably enjoyable to combat, and it is a very visually appealing game. Still, the overall frustration and trial-and-error gameplay of the latter half of the game ruin the experience, reducing what was a fun experience into a tedious mess.… Expand