On paper, Rise of the Fungi has all of the ingredients to make an exciting action platformer. It has a great organic atmosphere, interesting weapon customization, and multiple classes and play styles, but poor level design and cumbersome controls wreck any fun you might hope to have.
The story of Rise of the Fungi takes place before the events of the Wii version. Brought to life by a magical meteor, the peaceful edible mushrooms are at war with their more aggressive and poisonous cousins. You star as one of three mushrooms from the peaceful kingdom in a quest to take down the evil fungi. The story has a campy playfulness to it despite the serious war subject, but seeing it to its end will require a great deal of patience.
A number of things work together in Rise of the Fungi to ruin your fun. The level designs are unfriendly and confusing. The 2.5D presentation looks nice, but you'll often have a hard time telling if an object is part of the background or something you can jump on. Even when you can make out where you're supposed to go, getting there involves a lot of trial and error. The camera usually doesn't give you a good enough view of your surroundings, so you're left staring at the tiny map on the top screen and hoping that there's something to land on when you leap. If you miss your jump, you'll likely die, given that your mushroom is remarkably fragile and takes serious damage from even the smallest of drops. You have access to a grappling hook to help you navigate the tricky terrain, but the spots that it can connect to are often just off of the screen. Consequently, you'll have to squiggle your stylus around until it catches on something, and even then there's always a chance that it will just mysteriously snap and send you plummeting to your death.
Getting through the treacherous levels is made more difficult by the frequent encounters with annoying enemies. Though you have plenty of weapons and powers at your disposal, it can be difficult to connect with an enemy, especially if it is flying above your head. Even the fastest mushroom class feels sluggish against the quicker, stronger enemies. Other than some numbers draining out of the characters' heads, there is nothing to tell you if you are hitting something or being hit yourself, so if you aren't paying careful attention, you might just drop dead in the middle of a fight and not know why. The unsatisfying combat is like a bucket of cold water on the flame of excitement that's kindled from collecting random pieces of junk, such as shards of glass and sticks, and assembling them into lethal weapons.
Topping off the no-fun sundae that is Rise of the Fungi are the clunky controls. The default control scheme will have you using the D pad, face buttons, shoulder buttons, and the stylus and touch screen extensively. Every few steps you'll need to stop, pull out the stylus, fiddle with a plethora of largely unnecessary menus, squiggle something on the screen, and then quickly switch back to the face buttons. The constant hand aerobics make progress slow. You can change the layout to a stylus-heavy configuration, but that makes the frustrating combat less responsive, plus you'll still have to jump with the shoulder button, which doesn't feel right.
The best thing about Rise of the Fungi is its presentation. The developers seem to have done their best to re-create on the DS hardware some of the quirky visual charm and gloomy organic atmosphere found in the Wii version. What the visuals lack in detail, they make up in style. The fungi and scenery all have a drab and dreary look that is well suited to the world of battling mutant mushrooms. The excellent, earthy music from the Wii version has also made it to this game, but in smaller doses. You'll hear a number of catchy beats that mix organic sounds with synthesized tunes to create some enjoyable and unique music.
Unfortunately, a great style and a slick presentation aren't enough to cover the multitude of frustrations in the gameplay. The co-op mode and multiple classes offer some replay value, but when making it past even the second level is an agonizing exercise in frustration, you won't even want to play this game through the first time.