Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi - hands-on

When a glowing jade comet crashes into Earth and spews green funk all over the vegetation, it’s up to a group of - wait for it - Mushroom Men, to traverse the lands and save their tribe. Set for release on the DS later this year, Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi tasks you as one of three spore-bearing fungi and enables you to scavenge your surroundings for makeshift weapons, while beating on mutated baddies. We recently got our hands on an unfinished version, and while a little rough around the edges, definitely provided for an original, clever experience.

You begin by choosing one of three characters, each corresponding to a difficulty setting - easy mode for the melee-fighting Heavy, medium mode for the magic-blasting Sage and difficult mode for the Scout, a master of long-ranged weaponry. We were assured the Heavy would be the best way to go for beginners and reluctantly complied. Beginning in what looked like a microscopic view of a garden, doubling as a fungi village, we noticed small huts and campfires spread throughout the village. Already, we’re gripped by the world’s interesting, yet lived-in feel.

Gameplay mixes platforming with RPG elements. You move, hop and battle through large side-scrolling environments, making sure to keep an eye on your map for the next objective. The map is large enough to cover the entire level, so you always know exactly where you are and where you want to be at all times, which is marked by a blinking red marker. Said marker indicates objectives you need to reach, like meeting a town elder or the location of a boss battle. And if you’re in a jam about what objective you need next, you can always pull the map to the bottom screen and tap the markers to read info about the next goal you’re aiming for.

Probably the coolest aspect to Mushroom Men though, is the ability to customize weapons from all the scavenged crap you find lying around. When you progress through a level, you’ll come upon a number of tool boxes, filled with items like sharpened toothpicks, beads, pencils, sticks, fishhooks and way more. Automatically stored in your backpack, you can see each item’s attack power and the speed at which you wield them.