In all the years that I have been playing video games I have never felt as utterly confused as I do now. After an unfairly large number of hours playing Mushroom Men I don't believe that I've ever felt like I wasted my life. This game took hours of my life that I can never replace and I'm still not even sure what the heck the real point of playing this game is.

Let me explain more clearly.

Most video games are based around a concept. It doesn't really matter what the concept is but most games start off with a concept and then the game builds from there. If you look at most games that have been released in the past few console generations you can see that this practice, a pretty ancient one as far as video games go, is still in effect. Sometimes they start with a story, in the case of RPGs and certain other games, but more often than not it is something about the gameplay that they choose as an anchor. This gives them a focus from where they can build the rest of the game although the anchor may sometimes change during production.

Now keeping this all in mind we turn our eyes to Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi. Looking at Mushroom Men it's apparent that the core mechanic, the thing that seems to have been paid more attention than anything elseā€¦ is the inventory system. Yes, you read that right, the inventory system. Don't get me wrong it's a fairly interesting thing, and somewhat robust, but the rest of the game is a terrific mess and it's hard to imagine that anyone actively sought to release a game this utterly terrible.

At its core Mushroom Men is a platformer; you hop around stages, collecting weapons and fighting off enemies as you attempt to complete whatever your goal is for that level. There are places you can heal up, places where you can save your game and lots of enemies to fight. It all sounds like its workable but it done as poorly as possible. Every single facet, except the weapon / inventory system, is done in such a way as to make the game unplayable.

For starters the game expects you to have no less than three hands working at all times. One hand works the directional pad to move, one hand is working the face buttons to attack, your fingers are on the shoulder buttons so you can jump and you need the stylus to work your magic and grappling hook. Are we seeing a problem here yet people? You're left with one of two choices; either hold that stylus and be ready to abandon either movement or attacking or using your finger on the touch-screen, hoping that the game responds as you're hoping.

Why didn't they give you a jump button on one of the face buttons? Why do I have to change this in the options menu when it should be the default like every other game (something I didn't realize I could do for some time)? Why didn't they implement some sort of mechanic that makes it much easier to draw the attack "spells" on the screen while in combat? You're left desperately dodging attacks while you're trying to draw a triangle on the touch screen. Last, but most important, why do I have to constantly switch what screen I'm using?

For some reason the developers thought it would be clever and fun to make you need to draw on the game screen to do numerous activities while also needing to use the stylus to perform actions in your inventory. Since you can't do both at once you will have to constantly open up menus, pull them down to the bottom touch screen, do your business and then send them back to the top screen. Why can't we just freaking watch the upper screen and draw on the lower screen anyways?! What the heck is up with all of the bouncing around - it rapidly goes into pure aggravation and it's hard to imagine anyone thinking this was a great idea.

The worst part of all of this is that since you're playing a platformer one slip of the finger can lead to you plummeting to your death, sending you back to your last save point. All it takes is one slip up on the jump button, one misuse of a spell that leads to your using your grappling hook instead or any other of a million situations that the bad controls seem to instigate and you can lose plenty of progress.

As mentioned previously the inventory system is pretty interesting though. While traveling the land you will find plenty of small items you can use as weapons. These can range from tooth-pick like sticks of wood, pieces of metal and other such detritus. You can either use them as you pick them up, gauging their various strengths and speeds to pick your favorites or you can combine them. Each item can combine with certain other items to make new weapons that are usually stronger or faster. Making spears out of wood and metal or clubs out of wood and small orbs is fairly interesting and would be enjoyable. In an enjoyable game.

With a weird story, horrendous blocky graphics, tinny sound woefully under using the capabilities of the DS and just plain atrocious controls there's absolutely nothing about Mushroom Men to suggest to your friends. Much like many of Gamecocks other recent games it's best to just let this one simmer in the bargain bin while dying a slow death. When people cry out that we need more original games and less sequels let us all remember Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi and realize we need to start attaching the word "good" to the original game part.