This puzzle game really grows on you.
In most games, you’re supposed to guide your character out of harm’s way, but in the hostile world of Mushroom 11, self-destruction becomes the only way to survive. This fluid cycle of decay and rebirth feels consistently great to play and mesmerizing to watch, but it’s the plethora of clever ways it’s applied across Mushroom 11’s seven stages of puzzling and platforming that makes it all the more exciting to learn and master.
Manipulating this shapeless alien blob can be simple, or as difficult as juggling water.
The most important thing to understand about movement in Mushroom 11 is that you’re controlling a static thing – a glowing green amoeboid-like organism that can’t walk, run, or jump of its own accord. But despite the presumed disadvantage, its versatility is surprisingly vast: trim it from behind and it’ll snake forward; split it in half and eliminate one side, and the other will regenerate back to its original size. Manipulating this shapeless alien blob can be a simple affair in one sequence, or as difficult as juggling water in the next, but the best part is its logic is always consistent – learning the ways of this weird life form is part of the fun.
Like Putty In My Hands
Once you manage to grasp all the little things, like the fact that you can slice it up and use its different parts for the same puzzle, or what shape is needed to gain the most air after launching off a ramp, or how to sculpt it just right so that it becomes a functional cog in a machine, it starts to feel as natural as any other basic movement in a game. But it never gets old.
By the end of stage one, I know which part of the cell to erase and which direction to erase it in to propel it forward the fastest. By stage 2, I’m learning how to build it upwards, a tower of alien fungus balanced perfectly to reach high places. By the later levels, I’m riding on rockets, rolling objects across acid pits, climbing over retracting platforms above deadly drops, and I’m doing it all with a speed and mastery that Mushroom 11 seems built to accommodate.
There’s a balance between quick reflexes and slower, more precision-based puzzles.
Even with all its dynamism, Mushroom 11 keeps a manageable pace. There’s a solid balance between challenges that demand quick reflexes and the slower, more precision-based puzzles. Thanks to well-placed checkpoints and quick loading times, Mushroom 11 also streamlines the trial-and-error approach, allowing failure to feel like a fun learning process rather than a punishing chore.
Fungus Among Us
At the end of each stage is a boss fight, a culmination of everything you’ve learned in that level into a dynamic and visually striking challenge against some seriously gruesome and otherworldly creatures. These ended up being some of the most interesting and surprising sequences in all of Mushroom 11, but were often over too quickly.
Mushroom 11 certainly isn’t easy, especially past level 4, but there were times when my journey through its world began to feel predictable. I’d encounter a new puzzle and know almost instantly how to solve it, and from there it would just be a matter of nailing down the technique. This was an enjoyable process in itself, but more puzzles with multiple solutions, where maybe the most obvious maneuver wasn’t always the correct one, would have been a neat way to allow me to get more creative on my own terms.
Bringing additional life to each stage in Mushroom 11 are collectibles in the form of small neon insects and plants that are absorbed on impact. These can be hidden away in optional side-areas that usually lead to dead ends, or out in the open in hard-to-reach places, encouraging further exploration of the terrain and adding a welcome new layer of intrigue to otherwise linear levels.
There’s more to each level than just what’s in the foreground, too. Rich environmental clues in the backdrops of each stage offer plenty of material for the observant player to contemplate on their journey. While the events of the story itself are invitingly open to interpretation, the ending is surprisingly clever all on its own, and does an excellent job wrapping up the experience while still summoning you back for more.
Mushroom 11 understands the cyclical nature of games; of trying, failing, and trying again.
And I will go back for more, thanks to Mushroom 11’s immense replayability. I anticipate many more hours (my first playthrough took me about seven) perfecting my journey through Mushroom 11’s mysterious landscapes, using its built-in timer to speed run its toughest levels, finding those last few lingering collectibles, and fine-tuning my every move in an attempt to achieve a perfect playthrough. And if I fail the first time, then I’ll just keep trying. Mushroom 11 understands the cyclical nature of games; of trying, failing, and trying again. It has faith in your resilience to get right back up, even after death – to treat your own destruction as an opportunity to grow again, stronger, more intelligent.