Review | Mushroom Men: Rise of the Funghi
Format: DS | Genre: Platformer | Publisher: SouthPeak | Developer: Red Fly | Out now: £29.99
By Graham Jones
I don’t get on with mushrooms. Never have. While I find their flavour unpleasant and their texture revolting, it’s the fact that eating them involves putting a fungus in my mouth that really puts me off.
Regardless of this, I tried to approach Red Fly Studio’s side-scrolling platformer with an open mind, determined not to let the fungal nature of the game’s subject matter affect my overall judgement. I didn’t need to worry however, as mycophobia is nothing compared to my hatred of seriously flawed game design.
Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi follows the battles and adventures of several different tribes of mushroom awoken from their slumber by a mysterious dust which fell from a meteor as it passed through our Solar System. The player takes control of one of the mushroom tribesmen and begins a fairly standard 2.5D platform adventure doing battle with all manner of insects and members of rival (and invariably evil) tribes.
The game looks pretty good on the DS. The characters and foregrounds are all rendered in full 3D and the backgrounds are highly detailed with fantastic lighting effects. It seems that this is where the developers made a huge mistake, however. In order to show off their well-crafted creations in this fungal world, the game’s creators have positioned the camera too close to the action. It’s zoomed in so far that your field of vision within the game is too small. This is then coupled with badly designed levels, hidden platforms and poor collision detection, which all come together to provide some of the most frustrating and unfair instant deaths I’ve experienced since the original Prince of Persia.
Combat is made interesting due to the ability to customise weapons from items you find lying around the levels. For example, a toothpick can be used on its own as a sword but combine it with a wooden stick and you’ve got yourself a spear, giving your attack a greater range. Unfortunately, when it comes to actually using these items in combat, the controls are revealed to be clunky and unresponsive, which combines nicely with some truly horrific collision detection to produce yet more ‘pull your hair out and throw your console at the wall’ frustration.
These poor choices in game design remind me of one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s rules he gives his teams when creating a new videogame: the player must feel that the game is fair. If I die, I need to be satisfied that it was my fault that I died so I can learn from my mistake and move on as a better and more experienced gamer. While playing Mushroom Men, there have been far too many occasions when my character has perished and the blame can be squarely placed on the poor game mechanics. On top of this, many of the checkpoints scattered throughout the game are positioned next to instant-death pits, which means there’s a high chance that you’ll be dying after just one button press. Not good.
After all of this, battling through the frustration just doesn’t reward the player. The game is ultimately a run-of-the mill action-platformer, made almost unplayable by the lack of thought put in by the developers which has resulted in an incredibly frustrating title that fails to be fun. This Mushroom Man is not a fun guy (I’m sorry, I really couldn’t help it).