App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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I tend to be wary of physics-based puzzle games. Because these game provide tools that expressly force players to be creative, there's always the potential for things to break or have unintended consequences, which can lead to boredom or frustration. In the case of Mushroom 11–a game that involves molding a gelatinous, regenerative block of goo through a post-apocalyptic environment–there are definite moments where the game doesn't behave the way you expect it to, but thanks to an extremely generous checkpointing system, the experience mostly avoids degenerating into an infuriating mess.
Your mission in Mushroom 11 is to guide a blob of green ooze through levels that require to constantly reshape it. It's an interesting concept, and even more so when you find out that you don't really have direct control over the ooze.
Although it doesn't move on its own, you can determine the goo's movement by erasing pieces of it. Once erased, the blob automatically regrows so that it takes up the same amount of space, but in a different arrangement.
This obviously means that you can reshape this ooze so that it fits into specific containers, but this mechanic is used to control everything else in the game too. Basic movement, for example, just involves placing a finger on the screen behind the ooze to make it grow outward constantly in a specific direction. It's a control scheme that's reminiscent of indie darling Prune without feeling derivative.
Using the simple idea of constantly erasing-to-reshape your ooze, Mushroom 11 designs opportunities for you to ride rockets, leap over precarious pits, and even fight some boss battles. Every new puzzle introduces a new layer or wrinkle to things that came before it, and the ways this mechanic gets stretched is fun to discover as you play the game.
That said, successfully navigating these new challenges isn't always quite as fun. This isn't due to any control issues (the touch interface for molding feels quite natural and elegant, actually), but rather because the way your ooze regenerates is something you don't have much control over. This can lead to situations where you might accidentally dip your ooze into a vat of acid or not quite grow to latch onto a ledge before falling to your death.
Regrow and regroup
The randomness of your ooze's regrowth in Mushroom 11 is definitely a problem, but it's alleviated by the sheer number of checkpoints throughout the game. After almost every individual puzzle or traversal challenge, there's a checkpoint waiting for you.
This guarantees that you won't ever have to replay sections of Mushroom 11 that you've already passed, but it doesn't save you from having to try puzzles over and over again that you haven't completed yet. This can be frustrating, particularly because of the unpredictable nature of your ooze's regrowth, but it's also where the game's main challenge comes from.
The bottom line
Mushroom 11 is a creative puzzle game that challenges you to repeatedly experiment with its physics to succeed. Although there may be some instances where things behave the way you don't expect, the penalties for failure are minimal. That doesn't mean Mushroom 11 won't test your patience (it will), but the game's clever puzzle design makes the whole experience worth it.