E3 2008: Mushroom Men: Spore Wars Impressions

We meet with Red Fly Studio to check out a near-finished version of this action-oriented platforming game for the Wii.

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Earlier today, during a visit to the hotel that Gamecock has made its base of operations during this year's E3, we had an opportunity to meet with a couple of guys from Red Fly Studio and take in a demo of Mushroom Men: Spore Wars. The demo afforded us a look at two quite different levels from the game, and introduced us to two of the minor mushroom factions that exist in the civil-war-torn gameworld: the Shiitake and the Morels.

The first level that we took a look at, Showdown in Shiitake Town, will task you with impressing the samurai-like Shiitake mushrooms by defeating five of their champions in combat. The Shiitake inhabit an area of land behind a sushi restaurant, and its neon sign can often be seen lighting the portion of sky that's visible above the mushroom's diminutive architecture.

As we watched Pax the protagonist wander into Shiitake territory for the first time, he was almost immediately set upon by a katana-wielding Shiitake. Pax responded by equipping one of the 20-plus weapons that you can assemble in the game, a "hell hatchet" comprised of a scalpel blade attached to a burning match. The combat controls appeared to involve plenty of remote-swinging, though seeing as how we weren't able to get our hands on the game on this occasion, we unfortunately can't really comment on how they work. What we can tell you is that Mushroom Men has a really neat way of letting you know when characters sustain damage. Every successful blow removes a segment of the mushroom's cap, exposing part of the "brain" underneath, until the whole thing is visible and only one more hit is necessary to get the job done. Picking up health packs will restore your protective mushroom cap, but enemies can use them too, and they're smart enough to make a run for them when they get in trouble.

After besting the Shiitake, Pax was given permission to explore the tribe's territory and seek out the five champions that he must defeat to make them sympathetic to his cause. Much of the nonlinear level appeared to take place underground, where root systems and human debris create opportunities for platform hopping and the use of "spore powers."

Powers at your disposal in Mushroom Men will include telekinesis, which lets you pick up items that can be used to solve puzzles or to throw at enemies using only your mind (and, you know, by pointing the Wii Remote at them). Another power is "will of spore," with which you can psychically manipulate certain areas of the environment to create new routes through them. During our demo, for example, we saw roots moving into new positions, and seedlings sprouting into plants with leaves large enough to support a mushroom's weight.

Another interesting ability in your arsenal involves the use of a sticky-hand toy that, in the grip of a mushroom, makes an effective grappling hook. Of course, it's only effective if there are items for it to stick to, so to prevent it from affording you an easy route through the entire game, it'll adhere only to shiny surfaces such as metal or glass. In the Shiitake level, we noticed that it could be used on garbage cans (the sides of which are like huge cliff faces) and on quarters that had been welded to walls with chewing gum.

The second level that we checked out was titled The Mighty Morels, and it revolved around Pax's interactions with a tribe of mushrooms who specialize in science and engineering and who, in many ways, are too intelligent for their own good. Their home felt like a primitive laboratory of some sort, with lots of metallic surfaces, clock parts, and even a circuit-board-themed puzzle that incorporated Scrabble tiles and dominoes. The Morels were a lot quicker to accept Pax's presence in their midst because, frankly, they had more pressing matters to deal with. The evil, red-capped Amanita mushrooms were attacking the city, and if our demo hadn't ended at this point, we suspect a horde of them might have come crashing through one of the city walls at any moment.

Mushroom Men: Spore Wars for the Wii is currently scheduled for release toward the end of this year. We'll bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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