Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars (Wii) Review

By Mike Mason 12.04.2009

Review for Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars on Wii

The humble platformer has become somewhat rare on home consoles in recent years, so it's refreshing to see that one is getting a chance in Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars on Wii. Red Fly Studio's debut, not happy to shine a little light on 3D platformers alone, also takes a look at a hitherto unexplored idea; one that mushrooms are, in fact, sentient beings who are in a constant state of fungi fracas.

Well, it turns out they weren't always this way. A comet has crashed to Earth, giving the planet a nice sprinkling of radioactive dust as it goes. It's not harmful to humans so, typically, it goes completely ignored and nobody notices that their mushroom gardens are now walking around. We can only assume nobody has fancied a farmhouse pizza since the comet incident, because these little fellas would not become tasty toppings without a fight. The mushrooms have grouped into tribes made up of their species to battle against each other and animals such as rabbits and moles who have also been mutated by the space dust. In the middle of all the wars is you - naturally - as Pax, one of the peaceful bolete mushrooms. It also happens to be that you're particularly brilliant as living mushrooms go, as you can absorb bits of meteorite from the comet and become more powerful. Excellent.

Screenshot for Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars on Wii

Mushroom Men isn't what you would call a standard platformer. Sure, you're jumping around on platforms for a good percentage of the game, but there haven't been many games where the gigantic areas you're jumping around actually equate in real-world size to that of a garden shed. Rather than jumping across gaping chasms in sprawling landscapes you're scrabbling for survival as a three-inch tall fungi/human hybrid. To help you out, Pax has a number of talents. Firstly, he can use his pileus productively to protect himself: to paraglide about and stop himself being harmed from all those big drops, and as a shield against enemy attacks. Secondly, he's a bit of a engineering genius who can build weapons out of just about anything he can find, providing it'll fit into his tiny hands. These come in four categories: bashing, slashing, piercing and 'radical' weapons which use ammunition. As an example, if you find a shard of glass and a pencil, you can stick them together with some bubblegum to create a vicious looking axe. Most significantly, he's got a few 'spore powers' that other mushrooms don't have: sporekinesis, which allows him to chuck stuff about with his mind, the power to restore or alter plant life from a weakened state and the nasty spore punisher, which just blows up stunned enemies. He's also got one of those stretchy sticky hand toys that he can fling at certain objects to pull himself around.

Screenshot for Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars on Wii

With all these things in place, Mushroom Men makes for an interesting experience. The gameplay is nicely mixed so you're not stuck doing one thing for too long at a time; as well as platforming, you're also solving puzzles - easy to work out what to do, but sometimes challenging nonetheless with the time-based ones - and fighting against those that stand before you. The spore powers, particularly sporekinesis, play a major role in the puzzles as they often involve things being moved around or slotted into place, and Red Fly have done a great job with using the pointer for these; you have a cursor on screen at all times, a la Mario Galaxy, which changes when there's something interactive for you to click at with B. Sadly, the excellent use of Wii controls do not extend to the combat, which essentially breaks down into you holding the Z button to defend yourself and swinging the remote around for every single strike you do, or rolling around with C, jumping up and doing aerial attacks repeatedly with more remote swipes. It would've worked all the better for taking an approach such as that of No More Heroes and MadWorld, only using motion for key attacks. You can bring telekinesis into the combat, too; it's pretty fun to pick up stone blocks and hurl them at enemies, plus if you damage your opponents enough you can use the spore punisher to explode them - and sometimes those around them if your powers are great enough and you time it correctly.

The platforming itself is great, and the levels are intricate in their design and make you feel that you're actually working to get where you need to go, as you should with such a tiny character. However, it's certainly not as enjoyable as it should be as the camera can be absolutely dreadful. It does its best to swerve around to give the best viewpoint, but it will get stuck on a view of the top of your head if you're in a tight spot or not move quite as fast as you'd like it to. You can centre it behind Pax with a click of minus or adjust it with the d-pad, and if you want to enjoy the game you're going to have to learn that quickly, because leaving it to its own devices will often end in frustration and missed jumps.

Screenshot for Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars on Wii

It's not the best looking Wii game we've seen, but there's a clear effort to make the environments interesting using common settings; we would've preferred to see less brown on the platforms though, as it sometimes blends with the colour of walls and makes it more difficult to jump about accurately, but we have to say it's pretty colourful for a title primarily set in the earth at night. Where it really stands out is on the audio side. Les Claypool of band Primus deals with the music, and it's a superb job all around. The music itself can be basic, but as you move around sound effects will blend in and add extra layers, resulting in dynamic music tracks. For example, in one level you're climbing up a chamber slowly with the aid of a balloon, and you must move to specific platforms with to call the balloon to carry you. On these platforms you see lightbulbs overhead, which begin to make sparking noises that creep in. In other parts, water drips from pipes segue in to the beat masterfully.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is a welcome addition to the Wii's library, and it's clear that Red Fly understand Wii and have been inspired by Mario Galaxy by the inclusion of such things as the pointer usage and a two player mode wherein the second player takes control of the cursor. However, they've also brought their own slant on the genre to the table, and despite the faults and short length it's a commendable effort.

Screenshot for Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For a first effort on Wii, Red Fly Studio have put forward a great little title. It has a number of things that could be improved upon - camera, combat controls and extended continuance, if you want three Cs - which we'd like to see addressed in future Wii games from the developer, but if you're after a platformer or just a game that's a bit different, Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is worth a taste.

Developer

Red Fly

Publisher

SouthPeak

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date Out now   

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