A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the game is rated "E10+" for this animated violence but players are not fighting against humans. Instead, combat, which has some animated blood, is against rodents, insects, and fungi that have begun to walk, talk and think after a mysterious meteorite has fallen to Earth. The game-play is probably made up of 50 percent combat, 25 percent exploration, and 25 percent puzzle-solving.
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What's it about?
It sounds like the premise out of a cheesy 1950s science fiction film -- a green meteorite plummets to Earth and the ensuing space dust causes fungal and plant life to become \"conscious\" -- but in fact this tall tale is from a quirky new video game for the Nintendo Wii platform. Created by Austin's Red Fly Studios, MUSHROOM MEN: THE SPORE WARS introduces us to Pax, a 3-inch-high scout from the peaceful Bolete mushroom tribe, who discovers he's different from other mushrooms. While setting out on a journey of self-realization, Pax helps protect his clan and allied tribes against the malevolent Lepiota and Amanita armies, as well as dangerous creatures such as rats, spiders, and hornets.
Played from a third-person perspective, Mushroom Men is an action-adventure hybrid with plenty of \"platforming\" elements such as jumping on objects to reach higher areas, collecting many items, exploring hidden areas for bonus goodies (including concept art unlocked from the main menu), and engaging in combat against enemies. With the latter, the Wii Remote, held in the right hand, is waved around to wallop baddies and the A button causes Pax to jump for an aerial attack, while the tethered Nunchuk controller, held in the left hand, is to block, roll, and move Pax around. Mushroom Men also offers an interesting weapon building system, where items you find can be used to create new weapons in one of four categories: Slashing weapons, Piercing weapons, Bashing weapons, and Radical weapons. Different weapons work better with certain enemies so players will pause the game to enter the Gear screen and equip Pax accordingly.
Is it any good?
Because our hero is a teeny mushroom, players get to experience this world from a miniature perspective, such as running through discarded soup cans, jumping on playing cards, balancing on a TV remote like a bridge, or using a smartphone's stylus pen as a staff. The populated, colorful environments enjoy a wacky Tim Burton-esque feel, often with slanted camera angles and trippy music written by bassist Les Claypool of Primus fame. Mushroom Men might remind seasoned PC gamers of a psychedelic adventure game from 1996, Bad Mojo" where you play as a cockroach -- though this new Wii title features a lot more action. Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is an endearing new franchise (which also includes a Nintendo DS prequel, entitled Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi) and while it's not terribly deep or challenging, proves to be a fun and zany adventure for kids ages 10 to 100.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this wonderfully imaginative adventure isn't based on a movie or seasoned game series, nor is it published by a major publisher with a huge budget -- yet is still one of the better Wii titles of the holiday season. What made you like this game? Did you notice the fake ads?
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