When Mushroom Wars was originally released on the Playstation Network (PSN) in 2009, thousands of gamers instantly became addicted to aiding the mushroom people in their fungal feuds. Six years later and innovative mobile game producers and publishers Zillion Whales has released the second instalment of the series exclusive to mobile: Mushroom Wars: Space!
Whilst this sequel maintains many of the original features that made Mushroom Wars so popular, there are some new additions that set this instalment apart from its predecessor. There are over fifty new levels spread over three thematic planets: Summer, Frozen, Volcano and, of course, there is also a Multiplayer planet.
Upon unlocking the first single player mission, silent cartoons begin to explain how these feisty fungi ended up in space. I think – and really, I’m not sure – a UFO has waged war against the beloved orange mushroom kingdom. Although the aliens were armed with fierce scythes, the mushrooms were victorious and subsequently repaired the UFO, thus beginning their extraterrestrial expedition to conquer the entire galaxy.
So begins the epic real-time strategy experience that will have you hooked within minutes.
The idea of the game is to direct your speedy spore-based soldiers to conquer their rivals’ homes and towers. Whilst in their homes, the mushroom folk will get busy – what can I say, they’re fun guys – and multiply. You can choose to sacrifice a certain number of the soldiers to upgrade these homes, causing them to create more military at a faster rate.
Although you can still upgrade towers, mushrooms won’t breed in there, possibly because they are too busy throwing rocks at approaching enemies. When attacking, the number of soldiers you send must outnumber the number of enemy troops occupying the rival base. The more bases you overthrow and keep, the more mushroom folk you have.
Ultimately, the team with the largest army wins, however you’ll have to be more than a war potato to win. Throughout Mushroom Wars: Space! you will have to apply strategic resource management in order to succeed: you’ll repeatedly ask yourself ‘do I attack, defend or upgrade?’ If you make the wrong decision you may be forced to watch helplessly as your orange realm is overthrown. Victory is satisfying, but defeat is crushing.
Like most family-friendly mobile games, gameplay mechanics are extremely easy to grasp; you’ll simply need to know how to drag and double-tap. Although, you do have to be accurate and concentrate on where you direct your fungal forces to attack or you’ll find them wandering off to another base. Really, that’s as complicated as the controls get.
After you have completed the first ten single player levels, the Multiplayer planet will be unlocked. In multiplayer, two to four players must use active and passive spells made from ingredients collected from other battles to complete the current 30 available maps. There are various mission types ranging from capturing starred houses to collecting a certain amount of points before your opponent. As you progress you move through leagues, from iron to bronze and so on, rather than joining leader boards like you did in the first game.
What truly makes this game enjoyable is that a single mission can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. As you accomplish level objectives and complete missions more sophisticated tactics, strategic planning and patience are required to continue, ensuring long-lasting fun for everyone.
That said, Mushroom Wars: Space! is not without it’s shortcomings. Instead of the usual formula of unlocking one level at a time, which is found in hundreds of mobile games, Mushroom Wars: Space! forces you to return to checkpoints when you run out of lives. This is particularly frustrating as you only receive six lives and there are usually around six levels between each checkpoint. This means that you must complete each mission on your first go, and if you don’t you might as well return to the last checkpoint regardless of how close you are to the next one.
Also, like most F2P games, in-app purchases are shoved in your face at every possible opportunity, and they’re not really explained that well. In an attempt to see what the ‘Army Restoration’ IAPs did, I paid £0.79 (it was the cheapest one and it was on sale) for the UFO Expansion. That was two days ago and I’m still not convinced it actually changed anything.
Still, the Mushroom Wars team has undoubtedly created a winning formula for an enjoyable and addictive mobile-based RTS experience. Yes, the life system is irritating and I have no idea what the IAPs are for, but the charming animation combined with challenging gameplay still manages to keep you entertained for hours. I’m curious to see how Zillion Whales will continue to develop the series, as Mushroom Wars has some seriously wacky potential.
Some dubious IAPs and a few poor design decisions do little to mar what is otherwise a decent entry into the Mobile RTS cannon.