And that’s a very good thing
We haven’t gotten a look at Untame’s Mushroom 11 since we gave it a Best of PAX East award in 2014. It captured our hearts at the Boston show, with its approach to kinetic energy proving absolutely entrancing. Seeing it at GDC 2015, Mushroom 11 isn’t the same game we played 11 months ago. It’s come a long way.
The PAX demo put a lot of emphasis on forcing your way from the right to the left as quickly as possible. Environment served as the primary obstacle, walls and whatnot requiring creative erasing of the omnipresent green blob to hopefully get up and over. It was a skill-based affair, through and through.
Now, Mushroom 11 wants you to think. Each chapter is littered with puzzles that put a halt to the endless scurry leftward. For instance, we saw a bit that necessitated using the blob to form a ramp that would launch a rolling boulder. Another section needed a bridge that would cover five sensors at the same time.
It’s not always easy creating the shapes that Mushroom 11 demands, but the learning process is always useful. This is a much better designed game than was shown at PAX East 2014. Following one of the cardinal design rules, Mushroom 11 builds on the mechanics it taught earlier.
A prime example lies within the single boss that we saw. Remember that aforesaid boulder ramp? Chapter four’s boss could only be defeated by creating ramps to launch stones at the monster’s several weak points. It was a stressful situation that would’ve been frustrating to learn on-the-fly. Figuring it out under tensionless circumstances and implementing it later made the boss a challenging yet fair fight.
Speaking with Untame’s Itay Keren, the care and thought put into Mushroom 11 was immediately obvious. Keren told us that each boss ended up taking almost a month to put into the game, a figure that the production schedule hadn’t necessarily allotted for. However, Keren was adamant that the end of each chapter should serve as a test to prove that the player took away skills from the entirety of the level.
Truth be told, Mushroom 11 was an incredible game when we saw it almost a year ago, but it felt a bit like a proof of concept. Now, we get to see it intermingled with classic elements of game design. Mushroom 11 was neat before, but now it’s shaping up brilliantly.