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Morels 2 sure has a lot of unicorns, for a mushroom collection game

Shitake a look at this

A videogame mushroom seen through an in-game camera lens
Image credit: Abrams Studios

Friends, I have officially discovered another game I can play with my life partner, who regards most games with enormous suspicion and fatigue. That game is Morels: The Hunt 2, released this week, and as you might guess, it is about finding and identifying various species of mushroom in lush, photorealistic wilderness locations. There are also unicorns, crystal skulls and robot parts. Slightly confused by the unicorns, crystal skulls and robot parts, if I'm honest. It feels a bit like developers Abrams Studios are unconvinced as to the popular appeal of mushroom hunting, and have garlanded the concept with random mythology so as to widen the Venn diagram overlap between "fungi fans" and "people who want to live in cyberpunk Narnia".

The developers explain their thinking in broad strokes on the Steam page. "We loved morel mushroom hunting growing up," they write. "We still do it every year. One of the greatest things about mushroom hunting is just being out in nature. We take a lot of photos while we are hunting which is how the game came about. We wanted to create an immersive experience of being out in nature, mushroom hunting, and photographing the beautiful environment around you into a game, without having to hunt something with a weapon."

I guess the blend of photography and mushroom gathering makes sense, but I continue to be unsettled by the unicorns. You can also transform into one of the game's animals in Exploration Mode, by the way - I'm not sure whether this extends to make-believe creatures. I do not feel a pressing need to either photograph a unicorn or turn into one, but I really want to fire this up and have my partner passenger-seat-drive while I go ferreting around for chantarelles.

Being massive lovies, my partner and I have also been mushroom hunting IRL. The great thing about mushroom hunting is that a lot of the mushrooms you can eat look almost exactly like the ones that can kill you - it comes down to counting the spots. We came back from our last fungal foraging expedition with exactly one mushroom - a type of... Auriculariales, I think it was? - which we proceeded to fry to a crisp in terror of being poisoned. I don't think you can poison yourself in Morels 2, though you do have to worry about realistic weather.

Generally speaking I am bang up for more games about foraging. There's a quest midway through Ghost Of A Tale - a blend of dark fantasy animal fable and Soulslike level design, with no combat - in which you have to search a crumbling castle exterior for eight species of mushroom, identifying them from hand-written notes and drawings. Ghost Of A Tale is the only game my partner's watched me play through from start to finish, and the mushroom-hunting was certainly a contributing factor there, though we did also bond over a shared hatred of the "player detected" music.

Anyway, Morels 2 is out right now! I have written about it mostly so I can have semi-related thoughts about mushrooms, as you've probably guessed, but it seems to be going down well - even PCGamer enjoyed it, and you know what they're like. If you now have mushrooms on the brain, I apologise profusely and would also recommend 1) Earthtongue, which is a wonderful vivarium sim, and 2) this cardgame, in which gathering poisonous mushrooms is a cunning means of clearing your hand.

...Belated discovery while inputting this piece: we've written about the Morels series before. And how! Back in 2019, Jay Castello (RPS in peace) took her mycologist father on a tour of the original game's forests.

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