IGN Review of Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi
Developer Red Fly launched a new IP called Mushroom Men on both the Nintendo DS and Wii this holiday. While the Wii game turned out to be a fun, quirky platformer, the portable version is kind of a mess. There are some fun aspects to Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi, but cheap kills and clunky combat ruin what could have been a nice companion to the Wii piece.
The Men's console and portable game are each unique experiences with different stories, characters, and gameplay. The Spore Wars unfold as a 2.5D platformer with branching paths and lots of collectibles. Playing as a nameless Mushroom hero, you'll have to venture beyond the safe confines of your village and do battle with insects and evil 'shrooms. Scattered around the game world are various bits of "scav" that can be pieced together to make weapons and tools. A matchstick can be combined with a marble, for instance, to create a mace. This is one of the nicest aspects of the game as it gives you a lot of choice in how to approach battle. Stronger weapons tend to be heavier, so you'll have to decide whether or not to sacrifice speed for power.
Once you get into combat, though, you'll find it to be awkward. Flying enemies are especially difficult to hit, but regardless of what you're fighting it never feels like you're making contact with it. An action platformer like this with a heavy emphasis on fighting really needs to get the violence right, but it is blundering and unsatisfying here.
The other major offence committed by Rise of the Fungi is the way it punishes the player with cheap deaths when they're just trying to navigate the game world. For some reason, the Mushroom Men in this game will die if they fall too far -- even though they could fall from any height in the Wii game. And on many occasions you can't see the ledge you're supposed to jump to here, so there are a lot of leaps of faith. Leaps of faith that end with you splattered into fungus juice. Making matters worse, jumping is handled by the DS shoulder buttons, which feels a bit awkward.
Our hero has a fun little grappling hook at his disposal, but often whatever you need to latch onto is just off screen. That means another blind jump in which you hope you connect -- but will probably perish.
While one DS screen displays the action, the other shows important info like your map, inventory, and stats. The two screens can be flipped at any time for easy maneuvering with the stylus. Particularly useful is the handy map that displays important locations and items in your environment.
Sonically, Mushroom Men sounds great. The strange little melodies that blip alongside your adventure are in the same style as the Wii game. The still art that presents the story is beautiful, and some of the in-game visuals aren't bad, either.
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