Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars - first look

Although the DS Mushroom Men game will arrive some months before the Wii edition, its developers assured us you don’t have to play the portable prequel to enjoy Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars. Unlike the DS edition and its uniquely strategic approach to side-scrolling action, on the Wii you'll take control of a single fungal hero named Pax. It seems a comet has crashed into earth and played havoc with the Earth’s flora and fauna, and it’s up to you to make things right.

You’ve got no shortage of weapons at your disposal, since you can use various objects found around the real-world environments for somewhere around forty methods of mayhem. They can be customized with different results, creating things like a pen-spear that homes in on enemies with a lancing attack. By far, our favorite was an in-game DS stylus with a thimble attached to it. That may sound harmless, but we witnessed many a spider meet its end while Pax was wielding it.

That’s just the tip of Mushroom Men’s quirky iceberg. In addition to all the weird weapon stuff, Pax's head is actually a useful tool, enabling you to use its umbrella-like cap to glide around. It also pulls double duty as an onscreen health meter, as divots get torn out to indicate damage. Another cool tool was one of those sticky-hand things you can get from toy-capsule machines, and we were giddy to see it used to yank Pax around like it was Link’s Hookshot.

Flicking the Remote was used for close-quarters attacks, although the developers say they’re still looking into other options. Fighting aside, your onscreen reticule will still alert you to points of interest by changing shape, as well as displaying your telekinetic "spore power" meter.

You extrasensory abilities will dictate how you interact with your environment, and they're pretty damned vital to progression. Without them, how could we have talked to the kudzu plants, which told us that several nefarious rabbits were eating mutagen and going on a rampage? Empowered with that knowledge, we could then use our telekinesis to push fans on the bunnies’ skulls, or set up Rube Goldbergian contraptions of rabbit doom. Hey, it was us or them!

If that sounds grisly, all of the implied gore took place comically off screen, presumably to land a more family friendly rating. But that’s all good, as Mushroom Men still has us anxious to see more. Especially after we started recruiting other hidden mushroom dudes to help us face off against the final boss of the bunny stage: a garbage-spewing Jackalope.

Mar 12, 2008