For the past few months, we’ve been reviewing those massively discounted, 79p games that you might have spotted on the Microsoft Store. We hadn’t chosen to review them before as they’re a bit of an anomaly: they don’t dish out any achievements; they always seem to appear weirdly low on the ‘New Games’ list, even though they’ve just launched; and we were just suspicious of their value. But reviewing them has been a fascinating exercise. While the majority are exactly what you’d imagine – shovelware that’s less fun than tossing seventy-nine penny coins into a river – a couple have actually been worth the price tag.
But Mushroom Run 2D has a whole new category unto itself as it is, in fact, a near direct copy of another 79p game, Fantasy Dash, which we reviewed at the end of last year. The main character in this endless runner has been swapped out for a Mario-style mushroom, but the rest is the same: the level layouts (give or take a block shuffle), the controls, the three difficulty settings, even the obstacles you face.
We don’t imagine that many people have bought or played Fantasy Dash, so here’s the synopsis: what you’re getting is an endless runner that ends. There are ninety levels here, which is a significant number, split into three difficulties: Practice, Normal and Extreme. Each level has three stars to achieve, generated by bopping three weird rock-like enemies on their heads as you pass. Your hero is a mushroom, and you can jump or hold the jump button to automate a sequence of jumps as you careen towards an inevitable death.
To be fair to Mushroom Run 2D and Fantasy Dash, it’s a substantial package for 79p. It’s less than a penny per level, and each level is fiendish and long enough that you could be stuck repeating them for a solid ten minutes. If we scored games solely on their value, then Mushroom Run 2D might have done quite well. But we don’t.
Our beef with Mushroom Run 2D, outside of copying Fantasy Dash’s homework, is that it’s painful to control. It mistakes friction for difficulty. There’s a lag to the jumping, so you have to anticipate an obstacle before you need to jump it, particularly on the higher difficulties when the speed is amped up. Then there’s some atrocious collision detection, as you’re given absolutely no leeway in jumping over some obstacles.
But the cherry on top is the levels, which are relentless hurdles for you to overcome, without any finesse to them. There’s no pacing or ramping up of the challenge. Level 1 on Practice difficulty is just as hard as any of the Extreme levels, minus a speed increase, which means that Mushroom Run 2D lacks some vital elements: it doesn’t have a welcoming ramp to master it, and there’s virtually no variety between levels.
We gave Fantasy Dash a pass for being so exacting, as we thought it might be a proposition for hardcore endless runner players who were looking for a cheap challenge. But it makes Mushroom Run 2D a copy of a niche title – a niche within a niche – and the rough edges nicked us harder this time. There were the achingly familiar layouts, and a re-exposure to all of the niggliness that could have so easily been improved.
Which leaves us with a scoring dilemma. Do you score a game identically to the game it copies? Mushroom Run 2D is last year’s Fantasy Dash, but with a mushroom. Scoring it lower would be petty, but having been spat out by the same sharp-edged and awkward levels, we’re feeling extremely petty. Please, for the love of endless runners everywhere, please let this be the last Fantasy Dash clone that we have to experience. We’ll give you 79p not to.
You can buy Mushroom Run 2D from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S