Mushroom Age hardly sounds like a puzzle and hidden object game. Don’t let it throw you, and get ready for a big surprise. Meet the latest wonderful addition to the genre that involves more than finding objects. It blows away many of these games as it lasts much longer than other titles infamous for their short length. Furthermore, the lack of a clock takes away pressure so you can relish the experience.
The story begins with Vera arriving at the lab where her fiancé, Tom, works. She runs into an Albert Einstein look-alike who hates being mistaken for the creator of "E=MC2." She demands to know where Tom is because their wedding takes place in two days. Einbock refuses to tell her anything.
Vera, a woman of action, grabs the bull — or cell phone in this case — by the ringtones and looks for Tom through time beginning with the year 3008. Time travels include the Stone Age and Jurassic Period, as well as visits to Socrates and Nostradamus.
Obviously, the cell phone does more than connect with Vera with friends and family. She lands in a graveyard in a futuristic location where many things fly just like cars on the highway. She encounters an ancient looking robot that easily malfunctions and laughs with a funny "A-A-A" sound.
All of the dialogue appears as text supported by audio. When the UM-21 acts up, Vera reboots the robot by entering a password with up to five guesses in a hangman style mini-game. If you miss, it loads a new password.
Vera’s search for Tom leads to a second mission as she stumbles onto an evil plot that she needs to stop. The story lasts for 23 chapters and about three days of standard play. Most games of this genre — think Azada and Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor — last one day. The tasks for every level vary and not all require just finding objects. For example, Professor Einbock faints, so Vera needs to find two items to help wake him up.
Mushroom Age, like most hidden object games, provides several ways of seeking objects. Some scenes contain shadows of the objects or a list. Some scenes require finding differences between two scenes. In other scenes, you seek out one thing and it leads to another and another as part of a bigger puzzle. For example, you need a key to unlock the gate. You’ll need another object to reach the key. Other scenes require seeking out all of the same items, but they may not all be identical — they could be in the same class like symbols, for example.
Hidden object games often revisit scenes, some disguise a scene as different locations. In Mushroom Age, returning to a scene has a purpose, and it never feels like anything repeats — except for several mini-games, but they grow more difficult with each turn and you aren’t stuck playing them too many times.
While objects and scenes contain sharp graphics, the movement of characters feels archaic. They look like cut out pictures. The animation moves the whole character from side to side or up and down when excited or fainting. It could be by design, but it lowers the quality of the visuals.
Sometimes it’s difficult to identify an object. Click the question mark whenever you need a hint, but you won’t get another until it fills back up. That’s it and no winning bonus hints. This works fine with one exception. When an object is in another room, the hint flashes to let you know you need to go in the other room. But it wastes a hint since it won’t point out the object. This challenges advanced players and frustrates everyone else.
Mushroom Age contains bits and pieces seen in one hidden object game or another. Though it may not have original ideas, it tells a creative and absorbing story while making all the games an important part of it. So what’s up with the name? We’re not in the business of spoiling things. But it does come into play in this gripping and humorous game that will please plant and non-plant lovers everywhere and of all ages. No green thumb required.