One of the issues with being one of the few mobile-exclusive journalists out there comes at convention time. There’s a lot of games that it can be difficult to tell if they’re mobile or not based on just seeing them being demoed on a desktop with a controller. And there’s another big factor in play, too: PAX Prime is very much a gamer culture event. And gamer culture doesn’t care much for mobile games. So unless you have something like, say, Nova Blitz, which is a card game that actually is probably ideal to demo on tablets as they do, and is something established on another platform. This leads to comical moments where I can play a game and realize “this would be perfect on mobile, if not better." Mushroom 11 was one of those games.
The gist of it is that you are controlling a fungal organism that constantly regenerates to a certain mass. Now, you can erase parts of the organism’s mass, which can help influence its movement through the levels, which will involve you making it through difficult nooks and crannies, and even to fight bosses. The demo for the game had a boss where you had to navigate around their multiple arms, while dodging fire. The mechanic takes some practice to play with as you have to learn how the eraser works and how to influence the collective organism’s movement. Thankfully, you can’t erase yourself entirely, and there are regular checkpoints, so frustration should be at a minimum as far as playing the game will go.
It’s really quite disappointing that Mushroom 11 is coming to desktop before mobile, because the mechanic is perfect for a touchscreen. The erasing mechanic feels like it would be perfect for swiping with a finger back and forth, like it would be completely natural. The mouse feels like it’s this layer of abstraction, a means to an end instead of the perfect way to play. The developers say they still have some things to work out with left-handed controls, but the game is multidirectional as it is, so I’m wondering just how much of an issue that is. It’s more likely that they’re just trying to establish their game as a desktop title first, before they go mobile. People unfortunately won’t take a game like this seriously if they see it as mobile first. It’s sad, maybe troubling in a long-term aspect unless people see that mobile has all these great games that are also on desktop. But I get why independent developers trying to make their way would do just that.
Sometimes there’s other reasons for a game to not be mobile. Aerobat is an impressive shoot ’em up that I played at Chicago’s Bit Bash, and it has a mechanic of where you fling your ship up in the air and then have it shoot enemies while in free-fall. It’s something that feels okay on a mouse, but feels perfect for touch. Right now, the game is so visually intensive that a mobile device would blow up instantly if it tried to run the game. But also, as the game is currently set up, pointer finger obfuscation of enemies is a problem, and so is touchscreen latency, it’s enough that it causes issues for some twitch-based games. It can be worked around, but when it’s easier to just make a game for desktop where developers can charge reasonable amounts of money before they then try to establish their games as mobile games with the necessary adaptations. I hope Aerobat comes to mobile, because even if certain compromises have to be made, it would be perfect.
Thankfully, Mushroom 11 has more solid mobile plans, and it should be in the hands of us touchscreen players after the desktop release when it’s done. And I hope people play it and judge for themselves, because I bet this will wind up being better on mobile than playing it with a mouse. But hey, until the mobile market starts paying $14.99 for games with regularity, then more promising games like this will go desktop first, mobile second, if at all. And that’s even if they might be perfect for mobile.