Waking Mars is Tiger Style's first entry in the world of non-mobile gaming, and it's been making a big splash. Designed as a jetpack based sidescroller, it pays homage to classics like Metroid while still being a game on its own. The entire premise is based around a main character known as Liang trying to bring the ecosystem of Mars back to life through flora growth and exploration. As a deceptive game with a simple premise, Waking Mars has the potential to be the best indie game of this last year.
Mars is Huge - What starts off as a pretty small and linear game quickly expands and evolves into an unbelievably large world. Catacombs that differ in many ways are abundant, and as the game progresses the world begins to feel alive. It's the kind of game that a player can get lost in.
A Diverse Cast - It's pretty interesting to see a game with no white characters in it. It's a step in the gaming industry to not only see an Asian lead, but an African American female support, and a robot sidekick. Not that these things haven't been done before, but they've been done in a way that isn't racist or degrading. I will admit that I kept pretending they were Sulu and Uhura the whole time, but it just made it all the more entertaining.
Click 'n Go - I always enjoy a game with a control scheme that's meant for PC. The WASD keys control the primary functions such as in the air movement and jet pack controls. Then, while players are flying with the WASD keys, the mouse is used to aim seeds and shoot them. There are a few other keys for opening up the map and PDA, but the controls are so simple that they can be picked up immediately.
Ambiance is Everything - Waking Mars has a certain personality with it. The empty catacombs are all unique in their own way. The world itself starts barren but develops as the player plants seeds and explores, making it the kind of experience that feels good to explore. There are occasional bits of audio and narration that also helps push the player deeper, trying to figure out what's next.The Mystery of Mars - Waking Mars has the sort of plot that builds of simplicity. Originally starting as a mining expedition, the world itself builds a hidden, subliminal story that can impress even the most grizzled and jaded veterans. What's perhaps most interesting about the story is that it pushes the player to discover as opposed to just explaining why Mars is the way it is.
A Whole New Look at Gameplay - If nothing else can be said for Waking Mars, the game has some pretty cool features. Based entirely around the concept of building an ecosystem through plant development, it's a game that I've never seen anything like. Players grow specific plants in certain soils to develop each area, ultimately turning every area from a barren waste to a thriving forest.
MARS IS DEAD
It's Too Big - In the intro paragraph I likened Waking Mars to Metroid. While Metroid and Waking Mars are both good in their own respects, they share a major problem found in many games like it. Put simply, if a player plays a game like Metroid or Castlevania every few days as opposed to in one burst, returning to a game session can often become overwhelming because of the size of the game given the fact that it’s driven by one primary objective. This problem remains true with Waking Mars. It's a game you want to beat all at once, otherwise you could come back and not know what's going on.
The map is simply too large, and there is too much to do for players to remember what they had been doing if they play the game occasionally. With no real objectives, it’s simply too easy to get lost in Mar’s caverns. It is highly recommended that players sit down and tell themselves that they’ll be playing this particular title for the next week than if they play it every once in a while when they wait for a download to finish.It Ain't Pretty - Waking Mars is an unique game, but it isn't pretty. While the flora and cave walls aren't exactly hideous, the art style isn't something every gamer can appreciated. The basic flash graphics make everything look glued together and being controlled as puppets as opposed to them being living plants.
Waking Mars is a game that took me by surprise. As I had never heard of it before, I honestly thought it was going to be something not dissimilar to a sidescrolling Dead Space. After a few hours, the game I thought was going to be a survival horror turned out to be a tame game of eco building and exploration, and I'm glad. Waking Mars is a good game that's perfect for people who want to try something new.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the devloper.*