The Curse of the Mushroom King looks stellar, but inhibits every element of point-and-click adventure games that I absolutely loathe, which is a real shame as there’s a cuteness to its look and randomness. However, it never overshadows the frustration of clicking on every single thing a dozen times and brute-forcing your way ahead by trying every item with every other item in your inventory or object in the world until you want to rip the main character’s face off when he makes some snarky remark about you not even thinking about things logically. Phew. That was a long sentence. Keep it together, Abbamondi.
In Bad Viking’s The Curse of the Mushroom King, which can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android or played in one’s browser, you play as a character called…Bad Viking. Hmm. I’m not sure if “bad” is being used in the same way that my comics are or if he really is terrible at all things viking or if it’s just a nickname that stuck. Anyways, he gets on the wrong side of the Mushroom King fast by refusing to have some soup, getting cursed for his rudeness. The curse is that he’ll never again be able to enjoy the taste of PB&J sandwiches. This is upsetting to him, and I completely relate, but only if the jelly is grape and nothing else. In order to lift the curse, Bad Viking must retrieve an eclectic list of items–like a dragon’s egg and a banana–to make a special potion.
It’s a short–but not that short–point-and-click adventure game where you have a literal list of items to gather. This sort of scenario is fairly common for the genre. Unfortunately, while there may only be five items to collect in total, each item has multiple steps, with some paths crossing others before you can complete them. I’m okay with this, truly, but only if there is some in-game guidance. Don’t hold my hand, but at least give me an idea of what I’m supposed to be doing. Here, in The Curse of the Mushroom King, you barely get any nudge as to what to do next.
Let me give an example of a puzzle that I simply couldn’t understand; I was forced to look up the solution online. From the very beginning of the game, the bartender refuses to speak to Bad Viking until he has met the wizard. That’s all he says, and no other characters mention a wizard or give a hint to where he/she might be and how to summon them. Later, you find a stone plinth with a hole at the top by the tree with the bees; for some reason or another, if you place a cannonball in it, the wizard appears, ready to spit some mathematical riddles your way. Now, clicking on that stone plinth prior to placing the cannonball there gives no indication that you should do something like that or that even doing something here is how one could call forth a magical man from another realm. It’s a tortuous, convoluted puzzle, and only one of many more to crawl through.
My other problem with The Curse of the Mushroom King has to do with its art style, which I enjoy greatly from a cartoonist’s perspective. However, the colorful graphics make it hard to tell what it either an item or thing you can interact with. Nothing is highlighted differently when you hover your mouse over it, which resulted in my clicking like a mad fiend on everything I could before moving on to the next scene. You also end up having a ton of items in your inventory within a few minutes of playing, which meant I needed to try every combination of items possible, even if it didn’t make sense logically. I remember struggling with this issue in Deponia.
Sure, without a doubt, The Curse of the Mushroom King is nice to look at, but a soundtrack, dialogue tree system, and better way to distinguish interactive areas from background art would help make this a stronger recommendation. As is, there’s too much pixel hunting and guessing going on here. That said, a few other games from Bad Viking look intriguing, like The Dreamerz and Escape to Hell, so we’ll see if these problems are persistent across the developer’s other work. In due time, of course. I’m still feeling cursed from this one.