Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars Review
Posted January 16, 2010 by ChangingFaces (82)
[b]An unpolished game with good intentions[/b]
The main problem of the Wii is often quoted to be the lack of good third party support. Not only do the multiplatform games on the console often feel like sloppy ports: the great exclusives for Nintendo’s seventh generation console are nearly always published by Nintendo itself. When Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars was announced for Wii, however, some hope arised that the Wii would finally get another great exclusive third party entry. In some gaming communities Mushroom Men even received a small amount of hype, as the preview footage available that was published looked very promising: the graphics looked good for a Wii title, a third party game finally seemed to take advantage of the Wii controls, and the help of Primus’ legendary bassplayer Les Claypool was used to create a soundtrack that would equal the creative and quirky nature of the title.
The release of Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars in 2008 (North America) and 2009 (Europe) went largely unnoticed, however. Not many reviewers shed their light on the title, and the ones that did weren’t overly excited about it. Have the developers failed to live up to the expectations, or is it just misunderstood?
On first sight, Mushroom Men doesn’t fail to impress. While the graphics aren’t very special (though by no means bad for a Wii game), the environments look quite unique in an artistic way, and seem to match the impressions generated by the preview material. When you start playing as the protagonist, a tiny anthropomorphic mushroom called Pax, however, you will notice right away that the control scheme is prone to suffer from the same problems as the many third party 3D platformers that overloaded the market back in the days of the Nintendo 64. It is mainly the camera that draws some negative attention, as it just doesn’t function very well, and it regularly gets stuck in certain places.
As you go on your way, you’ll discover more and more things that aren’t particularly bad or disturbing, but just don’t manage to distinguish the game from so many bland titles that already ended up in the bargain bin of the Wii section years ago. Combat, for example, functions with what is largely the feared ‘remote waggling’. You beat enemies by swinging your remote, an action that could easily have been replaced by the mere pressing of a button. This makes the fighting element feel rather boring and monotonous, yet you will have to do it quite a lot.
On the bright side, you are able to create numerous fun-looking weapons by collecting items and putting them together. There are various categories of weapons, such as assault and cutting arms, but within these categories the variation mainly consists of the tools’ cosmetic features, and how much damage it deals. Gameplay-wise, it matters little what weapon you use, as you will likely still be swinging the remote the exact same way.
Other control functions work better, though. At times, it’s immensly satisfying to pick up objects by pointing at the screen, and throw them at enemies, or use them to create structures you can use to be able to access higher places. This gives the environments a rather interactive touch, as you are often forced to look around before you realise how you can reach certain areas or beat certain bosses.
The environments themselves are incredibly creative. Being a 2 inch mushroom man, you will see lots of everyday objects appear on your screen as parts of gigantic structures. Television sets will look like mountains, chinese cat banks will return as enormous statues of worship, and normal playing cards will function as the building blocks of the enormous world you explore. Mushroom Men lets you find your way through various areas, all equally impressive. Seeing as these enviroments are rather open-ended, exploring them can be very fun, and it ocasionally makes the game feel quite non-linear.
Your adventure is accompanied by a soundtrack that, unlike the game itself, totally lives up to the hype it received. Both Les Claypool and the sound studio GL33k have done an excellent job at writing and recording the music for this title. In some levels, making progress will add another instrumental layer to the music, building up tension as you make your way through the area.
The sound effects are what you’d expect from a game, but the absence of voice acting makes the game feel a bit dated in terms of audio. Anno 2008, text blurbs just don’t do the trick anymore. Mushroom Men, having drawn inspiration from Oddworld and Rayman, could have really benefited from some good voice actors.
While the adventure is definitely playable and even enjoyable, it doesn’t last particularly long. When you beat the main game after roughly 7 hours, you will very likely be left in a state of shock, given the rather abrupt nature of the end. There still are a few nice extras to enjoy, such as a very worthwhile concept art gallery, a sound test, and some funny mini games, but 10 hours of gameplay just don’t justify its price tag.
Still, if you are willing to play a decent enough adventure that was obviously made with a lot of love and creativity, it might be worth picking up Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars for an attractive price. If you can look past its shortcomings in terms of gameplay, this title is bound to give you a few hours worth of enjoyment. Just don’t expect a particularly deep or epic engagement.
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