By Eric Pankoke on Mon, 10/18/2010
I had the opportunity to play the PC version of Mushroom Age briefly at one point, but I actually jumped into it in the middle of the game to pass a section for someone. Now that I’ve had the chance to go back and play it from the beginning on my iPod Touch I’m finding that I really like the game. The story is quirky and keeps you wondering. The characters are amusing, especially when you get to talking to creatures you never thought you’d have a conversation with. The actual meat of the game is a combination of hidden objects, puzzle solving and mini-games. Overall it’s a well rounded package that delivers the goods quite well.
You play Vera, and you start out going to your fiancé’s lab to try and figure out where he’s been for the past 3 days. You soon find yourself caught in a mystery involving a time traveling cell phone, and you start discovering that your soon-to-be hubby may be more than what he seems. The game takes place over the course of 23 chapters, and you’ll travel to eras from when dinosaurs ran free to 1 million A.D. Along the way you’ll meet a host of colorful characters, starting with your finace’s lab partner and including such luminaries as Socrates and Nostradamus. You’ll even have a chat with a dinosaur! The story’s actually quite interesting, though I can’t help but feel like Vera should be a bit more upset and bothered by everything than she seems to be. Maybe it’s the voice acting that’s throwing me off.
Each chapter is comprised of several tasks, usually with some sort of dialog to connect them all together. A task could be collecting a bunch of mice, starting a fire or giving Socrates a massage (yeah, I cringed too). The hidden object sequences are decent, though I’m a bit disappointed that a sizeable share of the sequences center around finding multiple instances of the same object instead of a number of different objects. The puzzles run the gamut when it comes to this style of game. Some are fun if not a bit overused, like the puzzle where you have a bunch of objects connected by strings and you must move the objects around until none of the strings are overlapping. Others are entertaining but downright silly, like the one where you have to clean a dinosaur’s teeth. You can skip any puzzle that you either don’t like or find too challenging, but so far I haven’t needed to go that route.
Basically everything you do involves tapping something. Aside from dragging the objects in the string puzzle, there really isn’t anything that uses any sort of swiping or dragging motion. You can, of course, use the pinch functionality to zoom in and out on a screen when appropriate. I actually wish they’d implement a double tap for this, but the pinching works as well as it might in most other games. Saving is done automatically at the end of each chapter. This generally isn’t much of a problem since the chapters aren’t overly long, but it can be frustrating if you have to quit and do something else and you’re in the middle of a chapter. If nothing else, it would be nice to have a “quick save” that gets deleted the next time you start a game. Also, while you can “skip” dialogs by rapidly tapping through them, a true “skip” option would be nice.
Mushroom Age looks really good. The backgrounds are well drawn and nicely detailed. They could stand a touch more animation here and there, but overall they are very nice. There’s some nice character design going on as well. The animation kind of reminds me of the old Hanna Barbara cartoons, which is both a bit odd and quite amusing at the same time. Sadly, the biggest problem is with the hidden objects. This is mainly an issue in the segments where you’re looking for multiples of the same object, but the designers did too good a job of making things blend into the environment. I don’t mind a challenge, but I don’t want to have to look through a microscope even after zooming just to see a subtle difference in tone between the background and a hidden object.
The sound effects aren’t too bad. The sounds that are specific to certain events are actually decent, though some of the repetitive sounds for things like finding objects are rather derivative. What I do really like is the voice acting. It’s not great, but it’s so campy in spots that you can’t help but laugh. For example, I just love the dinosaur’s accent. The music is really well written. There are a number of different tunes played throughout the game, and they all seem to suit whatever is going on at the time.
There are a couple of things here and there that could use some improvement, but overall Mushroom Age is a rather enjoyable adventure. The story sucks you in and makes you want to keep learning more, and the characters are an absolute delight. The visuals are very well done, and the audio is some of the best I’ve heard from this style of game. If you’re looking for an adventure game for all ages, Mushroom Age is a great place to look!
Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link