Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars: Hardcore Returns to the Wii

Gamecock does one thing really well: Promote video games.

The thing is, their excellent cheer leading skills don't always mean they publish good games. In fact, they haven't really published many good games at all this year. And each time another dud passed across my desk and little part of me died, because I knew they still had Mushroom Men waiting in the wings. The art, the music, the idea of Mushroom Men looked like the formula for a sure thing for the Wii, an absolute must for a console really needing some more traditional, hardcore gaming.

But did the hype once more overshadow the actual delivery? Let's see.

Loved
Art: Aesthetically speaking, Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is perhaps one of the most visually interesting games of the year. Red Fly used an artist's touch to not only give the game a very unique look, but to present the scenery, the conflicts, the enemies and the weapons in a way appropriate for a story that centers around the tale of a living mushroom.

Sound: You don't need to understand how the music of Mushroom Men was created, using Les Claypool, fancy technology and organic design, to enjoy it. You just know when you drop into the game that the sounds and the music and how the two sometimes blend together seamlessly, adds another dimension to the experience.

Boss Battles: The boss battles of Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars are well thought out affairs, sometimes they even give a sly nod to some of the classic boss battles of gaming. They always deliver a satisfying transition to the next level of play and the final confrontation is fittingly bizarre and surprisingly fun.

Weapon Crafting: All of the weapons in the game are made up of the odd bits of minutia you'd typically find under the floor boards, between the cushions or on the roadside. To get any of these weapons, besides the one you start with, you have to find the pieces needed to craft them. The end result, like an axe made out of gum, a stylus and a piece of glass, is both humorous and sensible... for a living mushroom. What's so great about this system is that it rewards exploration of levels with something more than worthless trinkets or game design art. It makes you want to explore the world on the hunt for better weapons.

Mechanics: This is one of the few traditional Wii games that I have played that doesn't design down to what an increasingly large group of developers seem to think Wii gamers want out of their experiences. I don't need innovation in every game. I get that the remote has motion control, but it's OK to turn a waggle into a button push and stop there. Don't make me memorize motions.

Hated
Perplexing Missions: While I really enjoyed the look of the game, and the level design was eclectic enough to maintain my interest throughout this relatively short platformer, I far too often became confused about what my next objective was and how I was supposed to accomplish it.

Glitched Battle: It only happened once, and maybe it was a fluke, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that at one point a glitch popped up that forced me to restart a boss battle. It was an issue with a grunt not dropping down to fight me, an AI problem I suspect, and it was fine the second time round. But developers really should plan for the worst in these cases.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is a short game, but it wasn't so brief that I felt I had been short changed. Instead I took my time making my way though the 3D platformer enjoying the art, the music and the sight gags. The Wii hasn't had a ton of my sort of games this year, so I was delighted to find a title I could sink my teeth into. Even more surprising is that I find myself marveling over the game's aesthetic, which manages to deliver something unique without cutting corners or looking out-dated.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is one of the better Wii titles of the year.

Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars was developed by Red Fly Studio and published by Gamecock. Released on December 2 for the Wii, retails for $49.99. Played through the entire campaign.

Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.