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Just rolling with the apocalypse in Mushroom 11


In the aftermath of global annihilation, Mushroom 11 gives rise to a bioluminescent blob that looks like someone made radioactive jello in a murky swimming pool. It expands, contracts, squeezes and climbs through dilapidated nooks and crannies, never losing its total mass while the player prods it into motion. It's easy to play and hard to look away.

The quirky growth must use its weight and mass in clever ways to advance, be it creeping through the windows of a skyscraper about to crumble, splitting itself to trigger simultaneous mechanisms, or to roll past the attacking arms of a mutated plant. The trick is to realize that your touch (or mouse-click) removes adjacent pieces of the blob, which then immediately regrow, attached elsewhere. Closer observation shows it to be a living lattice of gelatinous material, moving and shifting its weight as it grows in response to your prodding. This makes Mushroom 11 a slower, methodical game, and different from fluid manipulation games like Pixeljunk Shooter.

The other trick to Mushroom 11, according to designer Itay Keren, is to teach players how to handle their blobs without resorting to text and obvious tutorials. The game is striving for subtlety, both in its story of how the earth came to ruin, and in its teaching phase.

Gallery: Mushroom 11 (PAX East) | 6 Photos

Keren is watching two different versions of the game on the PAX East convention floor in Boston this week – one with subtle indicators on how to move the blob, and one that's considered a bit more obvious. (While the latter was noticeable, it was still restrained.)

As players react, Keren will attempt to suss out the best way to show players how to play, without having to show them much at all. There's beauty in Mushroom 11's desolation and earthy colors, and clutter just wouldn't suit the organic growth and movement of the blob. That's what the score is for, thanks to The Future Sound of London, an experimental electronic music group.

Meanwhile, Keren is considering on which other platforms Mushroom 11 might live. I've played it on PC and iPad so far, and Keren is saying "handheld platforms" for the time being. The challenge with touch over clicking with a mouse, Keren says, is that the player's finger can obscure parts of the game and make it more difficult to see the blob's finer movements. I believe it, but when faced with an unusual, glowing growth, I have to wonder: How could you not touch it?

[Images: Untame]

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