The basic bubble menus, clean level design and easy to pick up controls make Mushroom Wars an RTS-lite. Unlike the punishing learning curve of most RTS games, Mushroom Wars is extremely easy to pick up. You can upgrade mushroom houses by hitting the L1 button, and distribute fungi-grunts between buildings by hitting R1 and a face button.
The objective of the game is simple; conquer the map, or certain choke buildings. To do this you need to use your resources carefully. Capturing and upgrading a building allows you to spawn more troops, and more troops are necessary to capturing bigger/enemy inhibited buildings. You'll sacrifice troops to dominate the map, so the game very much relies on risk and reward.
There's a fairly lengthy single-player campaign to enjoy in Mushroom Wars and some decent local multiplayer, but the lack of online play is largely disappointing.
There's a metaphor in there somewhere. We're sure of it. Mushroom houses, fungi-people and bright, kitsch presentation - we can't quite put our finger on it. Still, there's no denying - whatever the inspiration - that Mushroom Wars looks absolutely fantastic. Sitting somewhere near to PixelJunk Monsters in terms of pure style, Mushroom Wars is beautifully well drawn and coloured, making the game instantly endearing regardless of taste.
RTS veterans are likely to hate Mushroom Wars. There's no doubt the gameplay is watered down next to other RTS games. But that's fine by us, because it makes Mushroom Wars instantly engaging and simple to pick up. The game does ramp up in difficulty as you progress, but there's never really a learning curve to the experience, meaning you can just sit back and soak up the art-style. Having said that, it's worth noting the depth to Mushroom Wars' risk and reward gameplay. For example, when you storm a building for capture you leave another completely exposed. What do you do?
Mushroom Wars' relatively short levels make the whole campaign rather addictive. Everytime you complete a level, you unlock more, so you find yourself in that "one more go" trap.
Mushroom Wars' simplistic control scheme is super smart. Everyone knows how much of a pain real time strategy games have been to control on consoles in the past. Mushroom Wars does away with much of that but creates its own little niggles. When distributing troops around the map, an arrow automatically locks on to the other buildings around the level. There are times when this is clunky, and doesn't end up pointing where you want it to. The result? The enemy beating you to the building and your strategy down the pan.
We'd feel uncomfortable describing Mushroom Wars as a simple game, but it's undoubtedly very easy to pick up. And while that makes the game available to those who don't usually play RTS games, it may put off the audience who'd normally pay for something like this.
Minimalistic in style and substance, Mushroom Wars will probably prove too watered down for hardcore RTS fans. However, if you're just looking to chill on the couch with a great looking, simplistic strategy game, Mushroom Wars delivers.