Game Info:

Morels: The Hunt
Developed By: Abrams Studios
Published By: Abrams Studios
Released: October 15, 2019
Available On: Windows
Genre: Simulation
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $19.99 on Steam

Thank you Abrams Studios for sending us this game to review!

Morels: The Hunt is a mushroom hunting simulation game where the player is on a quest to collect as many morels as they can. A morel is a specific type of mushroom that happens to be edible, and it is shown to the player in the tutorial so they can identify them when hunting. Another part of Morels requires the player to take in-game photographs of the animals in the habitat around them, and they have a camera on their person in order to do so. Most of the achievements are unlocked in this manner.

The graphics in Morels are generally very realistic and well done. The animals are modeled and textured very well, which is something I noticed especially because I am beginning to get into 3D modeling myself. The nature scenes are also very high quality, but some of the shadows look more like grass shadows than anything else. In some spots, the shadows fade in and out of existence, and it detracts from the quality of the visuals. There is also an animation for taking the photo out of the camera, which is Polaroid-style, that doesn’t look particularly realistic. As the player’s character is walking, they can look down and watch the character’s legs move, but the animation for walking/running is not very realistic at all.

The music in Morels is well suited for the gameplay style, as it is ambient and calm. It is generally pretty good, but there are spots where the short song only plays once instead of looping. However, this only applies in the UI and level selection menus, and there are no problems with the looping in the levels themselves.

When the player actually launches the game for the first time, they are given the opportunity to make their first save slot. There is not a limit on save slots, so they can make as many as they please. When they actually make said save slot, a menu confronts them, with many different settings to play around with. The player can choose the gender of their character, and the difficulty of the save. They can also configure the length of a single day, where the default is 48 minutes. The slider for the day length stretches the day from five minutes to an hour. The difficulty levels are merely the standard Easy, Medium, and Hard. I set my save slot to Easy mode, with a 15 minute day and a female character.

Morels: The Hunt

Strong Points: Very high quality graphics; lots of customization options for each save slot; fitting music for the ambient setting; in-depth tutorial
Weak Points: Premise is somewhat weak; morels are hard to find, even in easy mode; human hand animations aren’t very well done
Moral Warnings: None

There are seven levels to choose from, all in the continental United States. The 48 states are divided into six regions, and the Southeast region is the only region with two levels. When a level is launched, there is a cutscene at the beginning of each day which remains unskippable. As the player explores the map of each level, their main goal, which is to find morels, is quite difficult to attain, even in Easy mode. They are equipped with a few things to begin with, such as tick removers, bug spray, energy bars, water, and mushroom markers. When placed, a mushroom marker indicates a spot on the map where the flag was placed, ideally in an area with morels in it. Since mushrooms regenerate each day, this is a very useful tool. The tick removers remove ticks when they show up on the player, and their presence is made as a grand announcement saying, “You have a tick!” with a sort of drumroll accompaniment. For some reason, they can only be used once. This one-use policy applies to all items, but it makes more sense for some items than it does others.

When a level is loading, there is a very odd loading screen. It is a game of pong, where squirrels are holding the paddles. The ball is an acorn, and the user’s squirrel is the one on the right. They can control its position using the up and down arrows, and there is a spot that keeps score at the top. The finish of loading does not prompt the end of this strange pong, but the pressing of the Enter key does instead.

At the beginning of each day, there is a two by two grid with options for what the player would like to do that day. There is Shopping, Hunting, Settings, and I believe Back. Settings and Back are fairly obvious. Shopping takes players to the in-game store, where they can buy supplies and luxuries to make their hunting day a little bit easier, while Hunting takes the player to the map, where they choose a level and then hunt for mushrooms in said level. When in the second level, I found a spot on the level map where there was no ground, so I fell out of the world. My save slot would have been doomed if it weren’t for the fact that the day retires and goes to the next one when you exit and restart the save slot again.

When the player goes in water, they are given 20 seconds to hold their breath, and when those seconds run out, the player is picked up in an ambulance. It is very hard to maneuver in water, so in certain spots by riverbanks, there are boats provided so the player can cross. However, when given the right circumstances, Morels will glitch and the player will be able to walk across the water like they would on ground.

Morels: The Hunt
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 12/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 100%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

In the levels, as the player is hunting, they have an Energy bar that will increase or deplete as the level goes on. It is merely labeled with an E. It increases when the player picks morels and other edible mushrooms, and it depletes when the player runs, jumps, or eats poisonous mushrooms, such as false morels. There are also mushrooms that become unattainable upon being stepped on. If energy becomes too low, the user’s view turns black and white, and begins blinking. Sounds of heavy breathing can also be heard at this point. The bar will never fully deplete, as the character is apparently unable to die. Going to sleep and into the next day resets the energy bar to completely full. Items can also be used to restore Energy as well.

The game gives the user 100 days to find morels, and each region (and level) is unlocked on a certain day. The second level is unlocked on day eight, and the second region on day 17, and so on. There are different types of weather for each day, and it varies randomly. There is a temperature forecast, however, that does not seem to matter much in the scope of energy levels. Rain depletes the character’s energy faster, and in thunderstorms, lightning that hits the ground is merely a straight line. There is a full daylight cycle during each day, and it is possible to hunt at night. Morels will alert the user by placing a notification in the middle of the screen saying that it is getting dark. Each level also has a shelter of some sort to return to so that they can sleep and skip to the next day. Once, I went back to the cabin, and as soon as the “Would you like to finish hunting for the day?” menu came up, the “It’s getting dark!” menu popped up. I was unable to proceed in either menu, and I had to restart the game in order to leave that deadlock.

As the user completes weekly tasks, such as collecting a certain amount of morels or taking pictures of certain animals, they earn points. These points are also earned by taking pictures of animals on their own. Points are basically the game’s money system, as they are used to pay for travel and items in the shop.

Proper physics is also present in Morels, as the player’s character can knock down chairs and move other types of objects by running into them. This adds an element of realism into the game that I certainly was not expecting, and was pleasantly surprised to find its presence.

There is also an optional tutorial that can be taken at the beginning of each save slot, which introduces the user to all of the UI in the game, as well as telling them what morels look like, and explaining the operation of the camera. I found this tutorial quite useful, as it was very in-depth. It showed where the photos taken can be found, as well as where settings and other stats can be discovered in the menu.

I found Morels to be quite difficult, and thus I was unable to explore some of the features that would be unlocked at the end of the 100 days, such as the apparent ability to play as an animal that was listed on the Steam page. There are also levels of certain skills, like finding morels and taking photographs of animals, although I was unable to figure out what constituted earning said levels.

All in all, Morels: The Hunt is a very ambient and casual game, with no need for suspense or violence. While it’s not something I would generally pick up and play in my free time, it is certainly an experience of its own, and something that nature fans would appreciate.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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