Mushroom Men The Spore Wars

   20/03/2009 at 08:08       Joe Bennett       2 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
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It's always nice to see a new studio come up with a game that isn't a sequel or cheap cash-in of an existing brand. Actually, let me correct myself. It's nearly always nice. Sadly despite featuring some artistic style, and one of the best soundtracks available in any Wii game, Mushroom Men plays like a game where the developer has spent too much time coming up with the concept and setting, and not enough on the actual gameplay.

You would think that a game that features mushrooms as the main characters, and enemies such as aggressive moles and mad rabbits, couldn't fail to raise at least a smirk at times. Especially when the visuals and artistic style are like a cross between Rayman and Oddworld. But you'd be horribly wrong. The humour doesn't so much miss the mark as feel completely nonexistent, and it generally lacks the inherent cuteness that games of this genre usually have in abundance. During my six-eight hours with the game (the reason for the vagueness is we had a gas emergency while I was about halfway through, resulting in the electricity being shut off for a number of hours, so I lost track of time) I never once cared for the lead character, Pax, his struggle against the poisonous mushrooms, or any piece of the story.

On its own, the story doesn't sound that bad; when Earth was struck by a meteorite civil war broke out between four mushroom tribes (recently given life by the meteorite strike). With Pax being the sole survivor of his tribe, it is up to you to absorb all the pieces of the meteorite and restore order to the land. Granted it doesn't set the world alight, but as game stories go, it's not a bad effort at all and should present the gamer with an interesting perspective of navigating a world from a three-inch high perspective. The key word in that sentence is should.

White shrooms can't jump

The world in which you play is, at first glance, intriguing. But where the bottle-cap strewn ground and kinder-egg style collectibles suggest something special, it all comes crashing down when you try to make your first jump on to a platform and miss it horribly due to the awkward controls and the (and I can't emphasise this enough) worst camera in a videogame...ever! Whenever you attempt a jump, the camera takes on a world of it's own, with you fighting to regain control of it with the d-pad in mid-air. The camera reminded me of early attempts at 3D gaming on the PS1. And that's not the only aspect of the game that harks back to that era.

The platforming gameplay fails because of the lack of inertia and awkward controls. Granted the little mushroom is probably still a little taken aback at his newfound ability to move, let alone jump, but it's all too common to not jump far enough or to jump too far, due to the awkward controls. With Pax being almost weightless, he doesn't die from huge falls and this just adds to the frustration even more, as a long fall doesn't result in death and a reset back to a nearby checkpoint, rather you having to navigate the same tedious section all over again.

Equally as frustrating is the combat, which is circa-1995 and shoehorns in the motion control just for the sake of it, resulting in disjointed action that requires very little skill and ends up with you knackered from all of the Wiimote-waggling. Combat effectively boils down to timing strikes in-between your enemies combat animations, and hoping your blow connects before theirs does. Alongside the awful platforming and combat are some minigames, but these just feel out of place and are as equally unimpressive.

Kinder Eggs; full of numbing inevitability

As well as failing to capitalise on the potential of the story and environment, Red Fly Studios also failed to make the most of weapon creation. Strewn throughout the land are loads of Kinder Egg-like items that contain tat inside that can be forged into weapons. Suddenly a rubber band, pencil and paperclip, when combined, turn into a weapon. But rather than let the player experiment with their own creations, each weapon is automatically built when you obtain the necessary components. And because each new weapon is more powerful than the last one you had, there's no reason to experiment with each one to see which ones works best for you or for the situation.

In addition, the Spore Powers that Pax has at his disposal, such as Sporekinesis, are only available to use sparingly and, apart from the game taking the Wiimote out of your hand and bludgeoning you over the head whilst screaming 'use Sporekinesis now you pathetic earthling', they couldn't have made it any more obvious when you needed to use them.

To put it bluntly, Mushroom Men could and should have been a lot better. I don't want to put the foot into a new developer, but all the while I was playing I just couldn't shake the feeling that they had a good idea for a game, but lacked the experience to pull it off. What you're left with is a game that plays and even at times looks like a PS1 title (despite looking great in static shots and featuring some excellent artistic style, the animation is appalling and even the loading screen suffers from slowdown), with very few redeeming features.
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evilashchris - on 20/03/2009 at 10:30 wrote:
 
Shame, It looked rather good in the previews.
 

kentmonkey - on 20/03/2009 at 22:35 wrote:
 
I must admit, having checked out the previews before it came, I was a little excited as well.
 


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