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If great, creative art design was enough to get a game a perfect 10, we’d have to award one to Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars. It boasts a captivating game world, in which a glowing green meteor triggers the evolution of an entire mushroom civilization with a Mad Max-style of scavenging and repurposing everything around them.
You play as Pax, an orphaned mushroom whose search for his identity – as well as the reason why he keeps absorbing the luminescent meteor fragments that lifted the mushrooms to higher consciousness – sends you all across this lushly created, miniature worldscape. Better still, you do it to the sound of one of the year’s best soundtracks: a quirky, off-kilter creation composed in part by Les Claypool of the band Primus. It’s totally uniqe and fits the kitschy-but-cool, retro-spooky vibe of the game perfectly.
Over the course of Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars, Pax will encounter several races of mushroom, both hostile and friendly, as well as all sorts of critters and even some sentient plants. To complete his adventure, you’ll need a full complement of both powers and items – which, luckily, he has. You’ve got your basic double-jumps, basic attacks and a butt-stomp sort of leaping, downward strike. And you can glide by using your wide, flat head like a parasail, or use the grappling hook-like sticky hand you find to zip up to higher locations.
Pax also has Sporekinesis (basically telekinesis – but you figured that out already, didn’t you smarty?), which enables him to move things with only his little fungal brain and gives him some plant-manipulating powers later in the game. Plus, he has an amazing natural ability to combine junk he finds into critter-killing contraptions.
For instance, early on Pax constructs a battery-powered circular saw on a stick – perfect for slicing and dicing an abnormal number of angry moles. Oddly, it proves useless against that level’s boss; Pax can’t dodge while holding it because it’s so big. But that proves to be the exception: For better or worse, there’s usually no mystery or strategy around which weapons you should use.
So, what’s not right about Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars? Well, the camera is pretty crap at keeping up with you, and we had consistent trouble aiming when throwing things we’d picked up with Sporekinesis. But these faults aren’t really a problem because the remote-waggling combat is a little too basic - the butt stomp wins far too many battles.
Plus, while the levels are interesting from an artistic point of view, getting through them is a little too typical. Ultimately, the gifted art design in Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars can’t hide the fact that you’ve played much of this before – it just didn’t look as good then.
Dec 24, 2008