Mushroom11 is a weird and wonderful indie
Earthworm Jim 2 featured some of the strangest and most creative level design of the mid-90s. Over the course of the game the player guides Jim through a variety of bizarre stages, including trivia contests, isometric shooters, and a section where Jim is a blind cave salamander making his way through the intestinal passages of some giant creature.
It was a strange game.
One of the levels was called "Lorenzen's Soil," and featured Jim digging his way through a level full of dirt, Firing your weapon at dirt above you would carve out passages, and at the same time the falling dirt would land on the "ground" and gradually elevate it. You progressed through the level like this, creating your own paths and often having to anticipate the right way to get to your goal while using this unorthodox method. You can see the level in action for yourself right here:
I had a chance to play Mushroom11 at a PAX East-adjacent event celebrating indie games, and the 20 minutes I spent working my way through the game's first level were a highlight of my entire trip to Boston. The game's immensely creative control scheme is unlike anything else I've ever experienced, but at the same time it brought back fond mid-90s memories of Earthworm Jim 2's dirt level.
In Mushroom11 you guide a mass of glowing green fungus through a post-apocalyptic world. You can't control the fungus directly, but instead destroy portions with your mouse pointer. The fungus then grows organically in the opposite direction from your destruction, always ending up the same size in terms of total volume, but capable of attaining dramatically different shapes and even splitting into multiple pieces as you carve away at it.
It's a tricky thing to describe, so just watch:
As with many great titles before it with deceptively simple gameplay hooks, Mushroom11 takes its "destruction = movement" idea and pushes it in ways that had me smiling and laughing a dozen times in the first level alone. It's entertaining just to learn the back and forth movement with the mouse which will keep the fungus moving reliably forward on flat terrain, but before long you'll be shaping the mass into hooks to grab onto edges, timing mid-air destruction to avoid plunging into lava, and dividing the mass to trigger switches and progress through doors at the same time.
While the control scheme is the star of the show, the presentation takes the game to the next level. The post-apocalyptic backdrop is full of "show, don't tell" storytelling elements, and the electronic soundtrack from influential artists The Future Sound of London is a great backdrop for the mind-expanding gameplay.
For more information, check out the official Mushroom11 website.