Developer: Crescent Moon Games and WickeyWare
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.04
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

I appreciate the crafting genre, even if I don’t entirely love it; I can see the appeal to many of the games, and I enjoy playing some of them. But ultimately, I’m the kind of person that enjoys some structure to my games. And that’s what appeals to me about Mines of Mars: it takes the crafting genre and adds a heavy dose of Metroidvania structure to it, making it something that I have really enjoyed my time with.

MinesOfMars-PlantsSee, Mines of Mars starts with the familiar premise of every crafting game: there’s a strange, procedurally-generated planet with blocks to mine through and resources to collect and items to craft. But the game is actually about doing all that to explore the planet, finding important items, and collecting upgrades in order to progress further. It’s more of the Metroidvania formula – defined as an open-world adventure game similar in structure to Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

So the combination of crafting and Metroidvania that Mines of Mars brings forth means that resource collection is ultimately about crafting upgrades, which make it possible to explore more of the world. Thus, collecting and crafting has a specific purpose. Each of my dives into the world had a particular objective, often to search out and collect specific materials. The specifically-designed boss rooms serve as important progression milestones and help to structure the game.

Mines of Mars is so familiar in its disparate elements: collecting for crafting is something I’ve done before. Finding specific upgrades to be more powerful or to advance further is something I’ve done before. But each system complements the other, and gives new life to it. It’s got just enough of that open-ended structure of crafting games, but prevents aimless wandering. Meanwhile, it allows for the strengths that come from the structure of Metroidvanias, but with more wondrous discovery because the world is a mystery, being procedurally-generated. It’s loose and free but not too much so, and it’s a perfect combination.

MinesOfMars-lavaBut the way the game controls can be frustrating. The virtual dual-stick controls don’t leave much for precision, and considering that the miner’s got limited fuel and ammo, it’s a problem being imprecise. Combat especially isn’t much fun because of how chaotic it gets.

But really, the idea behind Mines of Mars is so strong that any actual gameplay issues are really minor, because this is a spectacular adventure that’s worth going on.


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