Mushroom Men begins with a meteorite plummeting to Earth. But instead of said meteorite bringing Superman, the meteorite brings something else: self-awareness to the fungal kingdom. Because of this meteorite, the fungi of Earth can now walk, talk, and think. Unfortunately, also because of this outer-space rock, the fungus kingdom is in turmoil. A faction of war-hungry bad fungi are fighting for control of the fragmented meteorite.
Players control Pax, a mushroom trying to collect and discover the mystery of the meteorite fragments. Being a mushroom, Pax’s world is made up of objects that are normally sized for a human, but gigantic to a mushroom. If you liked the perspective in Katamari Damacy, you’ll like it in Mushroom Men. To aid his quest, Pax has a mysterious spore power, sporekinesis, that lets him pick up things like baseballs and throw them at enemies without actually having to get close them.
The weapon creation system in Mushroom Men works by collecting seemingly mundane objects like paperclips and thimbles. Each weapon has a list of objects needed to build it and when all the objects are created, players can bring up the Gear menu and build it. Weapons are split into different attack categories such as bashing weapons and piercing weapons. Unfortunately, using one weapon versus another is only a matter of preference and doesn’t really matter to the game.
The world of Mushroom Men looks like something that you’d see if you ate some of the wrong kind of mushrooms. In addition to everything being big, colors melt into each other in a trippy way. Accompanying the colorful world is a quirky soundtrack that matches the strange world perfectly. I could tell immediately that the soundtrack wasn’t merely an afterthought like it is in some third party games.
The game’s unique soundtrack and art direction impressed me, but its gameplay did not. One thing I cannot stand in a platformer is an uncooperative camera and Mushroom Men’s camera is exactly that. The camera is also not much help when it comes to close-combat. I found myself fighting the camera as much as I was fighting enemies. It also doesn’t help that it takes a while to figure out the hit-boxes of different enemies and the range of weapons because if you go by just your eyes, the clipping may throw you off.
It’s a shame that close combat feels so chunky because I really wanted to make use of the weapon crafting system. I was hoping that certain types of weapons would lend themselves more useful against certain enemies, but I found myself using the same basic attack for all the normal enemies through-out the game. The fact that I had to waggle the wiimote for the attacks with no alternative to switch it to a button also took the fun out of combat. For more powerful enemies, I found that using sporekinesis to hurl objects at them was easier than trying to fight them head on.
The game case has a claim by Play Magazine that it’s the “best game for the Wii since Mario Galaxy,” but I find that a lofty claim. Maybe after reading that, I had set my expectations too high for this game, but ultimately, I felt disappointed by it. While the first couple of hours was fun, the exploration is just too linear and the platforming too boring to keep playing.
If the art and sound team got together and made a Mushroom Men movie, no doubt it would be entertaining. But since it’s a game with unpolished controls and generic gameplay, it’s hard to recommend this game for Wii players.