Wii

North America

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars

by Neal Ronaghan - January 28, 2009, 7:41 am PST
Total comments: 24

9

While not flawless, Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is one of the best 3D platformers on the Wii.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is set in a dark and vivacious world where mushrooms have become sentient after being sprayed by green dust from a crashed meteor. After becoming conscious, all the different types of mushrooms engage in war. While it is a little short at six hours, Red Fly Studios' inaugural Wii game is a fantastic 3D platformer with amazing music, wonderful art direction, solid puzzles, and a great sense of exploration.

The main character is Pax from the peaceful Bolete tribe who, after accidentally absorbing his tribe's beloved meteorite, goes on a quest to find a replacement meteorite. Much to his dismay, he continues to absorb every meteorite he comes in contact with and gets thrust into the Spore Wars— the ongoing struggle between the aggressive Amanita and the kindly Morels. As Pax goes on his short nine-chapter quest, he runs into the other mushroom tribes (the Morels, the Amanita, the mysterious Lepiota, and the monk-like Shiitake), mutated animals (rabbits, moles, opossums, etc.), and sentient plants (e.g. kudzu and cacti).

As you collect meteorites, you increase your maximum health and spore powers. Pax's spore powers, controlled with the pointer and B button, vary from Sporekinesis, which allows Pax to remove barriers or use items as weapons, to Will of the Spores, which allows him to use plants as moving platforms, among other things. The health meter, much like the recent game Dead Space, uses a visual cue on your character's body to reveal how much health he has. Every time you get hit by an enemy, a slice of your cap is removed. When your mushroom brains are exposed, you've got one hit before you're toast. However, there isn't much of a penalty for dying, as you respawn in the same room.

While the graphics and art direction are a delightful mixture of creepiness and energy, they aren't perfect: the world is a shade too dark in some places, and the locales, save for the final level, look similar. Regardless, the entire game oozes character and style. From the sticky-hand grappling hook to the various man-made appliances (as seen from the perspective of an anthropomorphic mushroom), Mushroom Men is abundant with humorous real-world references. The game's atmosphere harkens back to the Oddworld series, except there are no fart jokes.

The spirited art direction is accentuated by the fantastic music by Primus' Les Claypool and veteran video game music studio, Gl33k. The bass-heavy music fits the game perfectly and even changes as you progress through each level.

An early level explicitly tells the player to explore the environment, and that is where the game shines. Some levels are a bit linear, but the levels with bigger environments are spectacular. Thanks to the phenomenal art direction and music, the levels are a joy to explore— especially the climatic finale in a trailer home.

While The Spore Wars isn't focused on puzzles, there are few fun ones that involve sliding tiles or require you to use Sporekinesis deftly. There are also a few mini-games that show up during the main quest. In one level, you have to take control of a large crossbow and shoot oncoming Amanita forces, while another level has you jumping over eggs as if they were barrels in Donkey Kong. In addition to these, there are also a few mini-games that can only be accessed outside of the main game, such as Pachinko and Catapult. These mini-games are entertaining but lack substance; thankfully, they only show up a few times.

The combat is very straightforward and consists of swinging the Wii remote to use whatever weapon you're carrying. You push the Z button to block and the C button in conjunction with the analog stick to roll. While the combat is simple, it isn’t bad, and what it lacks in depth it makes up in creativity with the weapon designs.

Constructed from household items that you find throughout the levels, the weapons are split into four categories: bashing, slashing, piercing, and radical. Each one sports a humorous name and unique construction. For example, Beat’em Down Scottie is comprised of a smoking pipe, a toy dog figurine, and some rubber cement. Despite that creativity, each weapon in a group shares only one attack pattern. The only disparity is the radical group, in which there are four different weapons: a flamethrower, a bug zapper, and two saw blade weapons. Radical weapons require ammo and limit Pax’s movement, but they are very powerful.

My only real issue with the game is its inconvenient camera. While you can center the camera behind Pax by pushing the minus button, it often doesn't work as it should. You're better off using the D-pad, which rotates the camera around the player. This can get frustrating, since the camera doesn't move quickly enough for the player in some spots. However, thanks to the very forgiving block mechanic (you can hold the Z button indefinitely without any damage being dealt) and the slower pace of the exploration, the camera never becomes a game-breaker: it can always be corrected with minimal effort.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars proves that interesting level design, great art direction, and superb music can help a game overcome other issues. The camera is tough to manage and combat is a little monotonous, but the rest of the game more than makes up for its miscues.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 10 7 9 6 9
Graphics
8

While the graphics lack some polish, style triumphs over technical shortcomings.

Sound
10

Les Claypool and Gl33k's music set the tone perfectly with their creepy, animated soundtrack.

Control
7

The camera is the only dark spot in an otherwise great game. Everything else works very well.

Gameplay
9

The exploration and puzzles are fun and creative. The weapons are varied and the combat is very simple. Some might see the latter as a bad thing, but it works.

Lastability
6

When all is said and done, the Spore Wars is roughly a six hour affair. Its single-player mini-games are nothing more than a mindless distraction. There are a lot of collectables to find, and the game is charming enough to warrant a second playthrough.

Final
9

Despite some camera issues, Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is a fine example of 3D platforming. It has a ridiculous, charming style, and the gameplay complements its personality well. It's not perfect, but the combination of fun gameplay, fantastic music, and inspired art direction makes it amazing.

Summary

Pros
  • Clever sense of humor
  • Creepy art direction
  • Exploring levels is fun and rewarding
  • Fantastic music
Cons
  • Hard-to-control camera
  • Short main quest
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

vuduJanuary 28, 2009

This is the highest rated review I've seen for the game yet

I definitely want to play it, but $50 for a 6 hour game is hard to swallow.  I'll wait for the inevitable price drop.

Did you buy the game or did you get a review copy?  If you played a review copy, how do you think your final score would have been affected if you had dropped fifty clams on the game?

If I bought this game for fifty bucks, I still would've loved it. Is it a bit short for a full-priced game? Sure, but I enjoyed it a helluva lot more than I did some games that are the same price and double the length.
I will play through this game again. Probably the best review copy I've ever gotten.

D_AverageJanuary 28, 2009

The combat is very straightforward and consists of swinging the Wii remote to use whatever weapon you're carrying.

This would automatically bring the game down to a 6 or 7 for me.  I absolutely hate waggle when its replacing a button press.  Though I really like the art direction and music (I've always loved mushrooms) the actual plat-forming elements look very mediocre.  I wish the Wii had some way of offering demos for games like this cuz I'm just not sold yet.

The combat never bothered me because it isn't really the focus of the game, or at least wasn't for me.

Quote from: vudu

Did you buy the game or did you get a review copy?  If you played a review copy, how do you think your final score would have been affected if you had dropped fifty clams on the game?

Scores at NWR reflect the (reviewers' opinions of the) games' quality, and are not buying recommendations. The review text captures buying recommendations.

If a reviewer thinks that a game's brevity hurts its overall quality, it will be reflected in the final score. However, it is perfectly acceptable to give a short-but-sweet game a 9 or 10. Therefore, a 10 doesn't mean insta-buy. It means it is a really, really good game. For example, a traditional fighting game can get a 10 but still be recommended only for fans of the genre.

A game's price, however, should NOT affect the score. It can influence the buying/rental recommendation, but game prices are so volatile that weighing price in the number is a bad idea. (I'm sure you can think of some games you'd never buy at MSRP, but would snag for $10 in two years.)

Hmmm...kinda want to try this game now. I'm a sucker for good art direction.

GoldenPhoenixJanuary 29, 2009

I think a good comparison would be to "The Maw" on Xbox Live. It may not be the most innovative in its level design but it has so much charm you want to keep playing because it still comes across as a unique experience just because of that one component!

SpinnzillaJanuary 29, 2009

The waggle combat is almost awful in my opinion, but everything else excels. 

This is the first review I've seen that doesn't complain about the motion controls.

ReverendNoahWhateleyJanuary 29, 2009

The combat really isn't THAT bad.  There's actually a fair amount of technique involved, particularly if you rely on leaping attacks.  The graphics are the very definition of a mixed bag, with the character models being intricate, crisp, and totally Gamecube 1.5, but some of the environments look a little soupy.  There are a few instances where the shading looks like it was applied from the palette of a PS1.  That said, Mushroom Men is worth a purchase, or at least a rent, if only for the creativity of the last couple of levels. 

I was definitely sad to see this game end as it does hit a great stride near the end of it. I really love the last level.

vuduJanuary 29, 2009

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Scores at NWR reflect the (reviewers' opinions of the) games' quality, and are not buying recommendations. The review text captures buying recommendations.

I'm aware of the review policy, I just don't agree with it.

Jonny has rated the Art Style games very highly, but would he have done the same if they were retail games that cost anywhere between $20 and $50?  I don't want to speak for him, but I find it unlikely.

When Boom Blox came out there were lots of complaints that it was a fun game but wasn't worth $50 (including by James on RFN).  Why can RFN discuss value propositions but NWR reviews can't?

Value (and therefore game price) matters to most consumers.  And whether a reviewer admits it or not, their investment into a game (whether it be money, time, etc.) affects the review score.

D_AverageJanuary 29, 2009

Quote from: vudu

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Scores at NWR reflect the (reviewers' opinions of the) games' quality, and are not buying recommendations. The review text captures buying recommendations.

I'm aware of the review policy, I just don't agree with it.

Jonny has rated the Art Style games very highly, but would he have done the same if they were retail games that cost anywhere between $20 and $50?  I don't want to speak for him, but I find it unlikely.

When Boom Blox came out there were lots of complaints that it was a fun game but wasn't worth $50 (including by James on RFN).  Why can RFN discuss value propositions but NWR reviews can't?

Value (and therefore game price) matters to most consumers.  And whether a reviewer admits it or not, their investment into a game (whether it be money, time, etc.) affects the review score.

Have no fear.  The failing economy will force them to change their ways.    8)

Reviews can and do discuss the value proposition. Just not with the numbers.

Quote from: vudu

Value (and therefore game price) matters to most consumers.  And whether a reviewer admits it or not, their investment into a game (whether it be money, time, etc.) affects the review score.

What affects a review score is the content contained in a game.  Whether that content is worth the initial asking price is entirely up to you.

KDR_11kJanuary 30, 2009

Is that the quality of the content or the amount or the fun to be had with it? I mean, would "rating the content" up the score on MaBoShi for its tons of extra features and lower the score on Earth Defense Force for its massive reuse of content and objectively low quality graphics and such?

vuduJanuary 30, 2009

Quote from: Lindy

Whether that content is worth the initial asking price is entirely up to you.

But since we don't have direct access to the content without purchasing (or renting, borrowing, etc.) the game we rely on reviewers to inform us of said content.

Do you agree that what could be a great 6-hour game can be a very mediocre 12-hour game (see: Halo)?  Then why can't a great $30 game be a very mediocre $50 game?

GoldenPhoenixJanuary 30, 2009

Reviews are subjective enough without bringing in a value opinion. Boom Blox comes to mind, I think $50 is justified but others do not and I'd hate to see the game hit solely on being seen as a "bad" value.

D_AverageJanuary 30, 2009

Maybe adding a simple comment apart from the score at the bottom of the review would be helpful, like:

"Day One"

"Price Drop"

"Bargain Bin"

...I would've bought this game for $50 and while it is short, I really really liked it.
Regardless of price, I feel this game deserved a 9. It is up to you to decide if a fantastic six hour game is worth $50 or not.

KDR_11kJanuary 30, 2009

Quote:

Maybe adding a simple comment apart from the score at the bottom of the review would be helpful, like:

"Day One"

"Price Drop"

"Bargain Bin"

Not really, everyone has his personal scale. To me games like NMH, Z&W, GTA4, etc are definite pricedrop territory.

GoldenPhoenixJanuary 30, 2009

Quote from: KDR_11k

Quote:

Maybe adding a simple comment apart from the score at the bottom of the review would be helpful, like:

"Day One"

"Price Drop"

"Bargain Bin"

Not really, everyone has his personal scale. To me games like NMH, Z&W, GTA4, etc are definite pricedrop territory.

Z&W= Blasphemy

D_AverageJanuary 30, 2009

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

Quote from: KDR_11k

Quote:

Maybe adding a simple comment apart from the score at the bottom of the review would be helpful, like:

"Day One"

"Price Drop"

"Bargain Bin"

Not really, everyone has his personal scale. To me games like NMH, Z&W, GTA4, etc are definite pricedrop territory.

Z&W= Blasphemy

BAN HIM!!!!

KDR_11kJanuary 31, 2009

Meh, I lost all interest after Barbaros' resurrection, the game just turned into an action game instead of a puzzle then...

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Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Red Fly Studio
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars
Release Dec 02, 2008
PublisherGamecock Media Group
RatingEveryone 10+
eu: Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars
Release Mar 20, 2009
PublisherSouthPeak Interactive
Rating7+
aus: Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars
Release May 14, 2009
PublisherTHQ
RatingParental Guidance
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