Mushroom Men left me feeling a little confused on what to give it for this review. On one hand, the game's protagonist, Pax, is charming and likeable, as are his allies and companions. The design for the characters is also superb, as is the entire look of the game, which is in no small party due to the phenomenal art direction at work. The game also has the musical videogame debut of Les Claypool, bassist of Primus, and he produces some of the best videogame tracks I've heard in a while. No exaggerations. On the other, uglier hand, the combat is weak, and the game is over far too quickly. Nonetheless, Mushroom Men deserves some attention.
Mushroom Men s all about mushrooms . . . that are like men. Get it? After many freak meteor showers, certain types of vegitation have gained sentience, among them mushrooms. These mushrooms are the focus of the game. You, Pax, are a bolete mushroom. The morels are your allies, and the amanita are your enemies, due to their poisonous qualities. Basically, you're a drifter who accidentally absorbs a precious meteorite chunk from another bolete village. Your quest is to get another. No matter what you do, though, you keep absorbing them.
This absorption is due to your ability to control "Spore powers". Throughout the game, you get to use different powers, mainly Sporekenesis, which allows you to move objects in your environment. You will need to do quite a bit of this to complete the game. Doors are activated by pushing the lever on a toaster, ironing boards are dropped by removing pins from the lock, etc. It works pretty well, and it usually isn't too hard to figure out where to go. You may scratch your head from time to time, but it is a platformer based on exploration, after all. You can also glide on your head.
Speaking of the environments, they really are quite remarkable. Since you are a tiny mushroom, your goal is uusually to navigate throughout the gigantic world of the humans. This allows for a lot of really cool visuals, and many are capitalized upon. In one instance, I saw a meteorite chunk on the far side of a wall (Meteorite chunks act as collectibles to make you stronger). I jumped and started to glide to the meteorite when I realized that I was soaring over a hillbilly kitchen. The perspective of it really did make my jaw drop for a second. This is all complimented by brilliantly composed music by Mr. Claypool. There is some really, really catchy tunes that could go on to become standards in Play! orchestra arrangements. There is a good sense of humor about the game, albeit somewhat dark. The final boss room exemplifies this.
When you are exploring and encounter an enemy, which could be a rabbit or a mole or a roach or another mushroom, you see the game's biggest drawback. The combat is really weak, though it isn't without its good ideas. The game implements a weapon homebrew system, called "Scav", which allows you to take items from your environment and make weapons out of them. You see a DS Stylus, piece of gum and a razor blade? I see a weapon of death; in this case, it's a hatchet. This helps make the game somewhat more fun with the combat, but it doesn't save it. It's all waggle. And I mean waggle. Twilight Princess waggle with no timing thrown in at all. It really is disappointing. Another disappointment is that the game is very short, easily under 10 hours. It is also a fairly unpolished product.
Yes, it may follow the "Games you should rent and not buy" template upon first glance, but it really is a fun game that you may want to run through again. The best thing about this game that I have seen is that nothing about the game that can't be fixed in a sequel. Better combat, more length and more polish is easy. The kind of quality presentation here is not, by any means. Classic platforming may not be particularly innovative, and this game didn't do it best, but they did it with such style that it makes up for its deficiencies. It's fun, period, and it's a great addition to the Wii library.