Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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Waking Mars is an atmospheric adventure game from Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor creator Tiger Style Games. This Metroidvania-style game has players in control of Dr. Liang, a jetpack-clad scientist exploring the caverns of Mars with his remote support team, trying to study the caverns and plant life he finds, and discovering the secrets buried within. There is no real combat to the game; the goal is to collect and plant seeds for the various types of plant life, trying to raise the biomass in each sector high enough for the Cerebane barrier to go away. The goal is ultimately to escape the caverns of Mars, while discovering the secrets within.
This game’s focus on exploration and atmosphere is refreshing; I love some high-intensity games, but this is a more cerebral experience. The planting mechanic is interesting to play with, especially in the way that the different seeds interact with each other. Later on, seeds of different elements come into play that alter the potential terrain even further, which adds to the complexity. The maps in Waking Mars feature multiple paths, and rewards using discoveries from later in the game back in earlier caverns. The game is surprisingly humorous, with plenty of witty dialogue between Liang, his remote support Amani, and the robot support, ART.
However, the biomass/planting mechanic becomes annoying the longer the game goes on, when seeming perfection is necessary in order to achieve the highest biomass. Getting more of the higher biomass seeds is difficult, and they tend to be either hazardous or difficult to deal with. For example, the Ledon Zoa seeds are anti-gravity seeds that can’t be picked up and barely be controlled. These are not fun to try and plant, yet seem necessary to try and get level 5 biomass in some levels. Or trying to get seeds of the Prax Zoa by getting a creature to run into its mouth? It’s these kind of secondary mechanics that the player has to play that make later parts of the game frustrating. They may intend to be challenging, but they don’t feel all that fun to try and do.
Waking Mars will be loved by fans of Metroidvania-style adventure games. Some of the backtracking can get annoying, but this is another fine title from Tiger Style Games.