I first played Mushroom 11 from Untame Games in its beta form back in March, at a PAX East-adjacent indie games event. I raved about the game, calling it one of the highlights of the entire convention experience.
Seven months later and the full game is out -- and it's even better than I expected. Mushroom 11 is an absolutely fantastic physics-based puzzler, and it's a definite must-play for almost every gamer with a PC.
Secret of the ooze
The controls in Mushroom 11 are some of the simplest ever in a game, and consist of just the two main mouse buttons. The left button destroys a large section of the green, ooze-y mass at the center of the game (I hesitate to refer to the ooze as "you" or "the hero," but it's extremely tempting), while the right button allows you to destroy a tighter, more controlled portion. If you think about what you're doing in Mushroom 11 as erasing with two differently-sized erasers in MS Paint you won't be far off from the truth.
When part of the ooze gets destroyed, that same amount of mass regrows after a brief pause, sprouting from the bulk of the thing. It's a damnably hard thing to put into words, but just watch this GIF and you should get it instantly:
See? That white circle is your left-click cursor, destroying portions of the green mass, which in turn grows organically away from your sphere of destruction, wrapping itself around objects and flowing like some disgusting green syrup into any available nook or cranny.
As far as controls go, that's it. In the grand tradition of physics-based indie puzzlers with deceptively simple control schemes, Mushroom 11 takes a few basic rules and explores them in mind-bending ways. Over the game's seven levels (which will likely take you somewhere around 5 to 10 hours to complete) you'll send the mass flying through the air, divide it into multiple independent pieces to activate levers, and form it into wrenches to twist bolts.
There's an enormous variety of strange, bizarre, and sometimes hilarious things to do with the glob at the center of Mushroom 11, and you'll likely find it tough to step away from your PC even when the puzzles get frustrating, because the temptation to see the next crazy puzzle will just be too great. The main game provides plenty of challenge on its own, with each new level introducing new obstacles and forcing you to learn new skills. The bosses at the end of each stage are rarely the toughest part of the level, but you'll find yourself pushing onwards to them just to see the next crazy creature creation you'll have to "fight."
If you're the kind of person who enjoys challenge modes and things of that sort, each level is also packed with hard-to-reach collectibles to provide you some replay incentive. You can also try to beat your previous best time clearing each stage, sometime that will hopefully inspire some really weird speed-run videos on YouTube.
It would probably take a trained psychologist to articulate exactly why, but Mushroom 11 is one of the most satisfying games I've ever played. And that's not just a random word I'm picking to mean "fun" -- myself and several other folks around GameCrate both independently used the word "satisfying" to describe playing (and watching) the game.
Something about the way the green ooze flows away from your destruction, how it fills in gaps and wraps around hooks and platforms...it just tickles a special spot in the brain that few other games ever have. There's an odd feeling akin to the satisfaction of squeezing every last bit of toothpaste from a tube, or maybe crafting with clay or playing in wet sand at the beach.
Whatever the reason, Mushroom 11 is a blast on multiple levels. It's hypnotic to play or even just to watch, and this is helped along by an outstanding soundtrack which makes good use of both electronic sounds and traditional instruments like horns and a piano. Combine the music with a bleakly-beautiful post-apocalyptic backdrop and you have a recipe for a near-perfect combination of gameplay and atmosphere.