Humanity has always dreamt about what lies beyond the stars.
The notion of not being alone in the universe has been nurtured since the days of the cavemen all the way to their modern day redneck counterparts. In 2097 life is discovered on Mars, and you are a member of the first mission to set foot on the planet. Of course something goes wrong, otherwise this wouldn’t be a proper premise for a game. When traveling a cave the passage out gets blocked off, and you have to find your way out. And somewhere something is alive inside the cave, and you don’t know if it is peaceful.
Waking Mars is more of an experience than a game in my opinion. Discovering new plants, new paths and new life forms in the caves is done at a slow deliberate pace. Listening to the brilliant music that enhance the feeling of both being abandoned, and hope that new knowledge will save both your life and that of humanity. The graphics are also really nice with lushness to the backgrounds, and great play with lighting effects giving it an organic feel. Tiger Style is the developer responsible for the excellent Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. They are masters at creating a great mystery, and they showed it in Spider and now in Waking Mars. What Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor has that I find to be lacking in Waking Mars is fun gameplay. After an hour of running, and flying around the caves of Mars it all started to feel really repetitive. Sure you get some instances of harder segments where acid, spikes and evil plants try to kill you. Most of the time however I felt like trudging around caves, throwing seeds and colleting seeds.
The story is told through means of conversations between your protagonist, and the base station. This feels quite stale, and the lack of voiceovers means that I never really get an emotional connection to the characters. As the story draws to an end some will get annoyed with it, and some will complain that it came too soon. To me it didn’t quite get the emotional impact intended.
The controls are all touch based, and relative to the position of the player. Touch to the right to walk right, and vice versa. To fly simply touch above, or horizontally above to engage the jetpack. Throwing seeds is done by opening the seed menu in the lower right corner, selecting a seed and then throw after establishing an arc of trajectory. On the iPad I found the controls awkward, and a virtual joystick had been preferred. These relative touch controls work much better on the smaller screen of the iPhone, but to get the most immersion out of the experience I decided to play it from start to finish on my new iPad.
Waking Mars is more of an experience than a challenging game. If you are setting yourself up for an adventure after reading rave reviews at other sites, and the App Store you might be in for a disappointment. I know I was, as I actually got a bit bored. Had I gone into this expecting an ambient moment of relaxation things would have been different. Waking Mars is worth experiencing, but I rather replay Spider: The Mystery of Bryce Manor to have both the experience and some excellent gameplay.
Waking Mars $4.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Tiger Style Games