Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Waking Mars

Review: Waking Mars

5:00 PM on 03.01.2012 // Allistair Pinsof
  @DtoidAllistair

Mars is a pretty cool place to explore, especially when you don't need to blow stuff up.

Over the past couple years, film directors such as Mike Cahill and Duncan Jones have offered a much softer take on the sci-fi genre, one where science, man's relationship with nature, and personal tragedy trump gun fights and epic alien warfare.

Waking Mars is an attempt to embody this aesthetic into a game that is parts Metroid, The Dig, and Discovery Channel. The result is an iOS release unlike any other, a daring experiment that unfortunately comes with a host of problems.

Waking Mars (iOS)
Developer: Tiger Style
Publisher: Tiger Style
Released: March 1, 2012
MSRP: $4.99

Waking Mars is best described as Dead Space, except the protagonist has seeds instead of guns and there are passive, spore-like alien creatures instead of Necromorphs. Also, there is no Scientology-esque cult. Or boss fights. Or ... okay, it's really nothing like Dead Space, or any other game for that matter.

Waking Mars is an action-adventure that presents players with a large, mostly linear planet to explore. It is filled with lush alien flora, fauna, and other elements that make each locale feel alive -- as alive as a big, dry rock can feel, in any case.

You play as American astronaut Liang, who makes first contact on Mars in 2097. After discovering basic lifeforms on the planet, his mission is jeopardized by a cave-in. He is left with only some seeds, an A.I. computer that speaks broken English, and a human guide who can only occasionally be reached by transmission. Liang's goal is now to survive, find a way back to base camp, and learn about the sentient beings who may occupy the lowest reaches of the planet.

Instead of shooting your way out of this problem, Waking Mars supplies the player with seeds to help grow a lively ecosystem that will open passageways and direct water to dry areas. Each area of the game has a Biomass rating which you must raise to at least three stars, five if you want the superior ending. Knowing the best methods of growing the ecosystem of the planet is essential to steady progress.

Your journey begins easily enough with one or two seed types, but by the end, you have access to a number of options. Despite this, there isn't much strategy involved. Once you discover the best method -- the one that grants you the most Biomass -- you'll just stick to that. The game would be a lot more interesting if it presented various routes with equal benefits. It would help sidestep the redundancy of performing the same task over and over again. It also doesn't help that most areas present similar, if not identical, obstacles for the player.

While this may sound like "Gardening Mama in Space," Waking Mars' locales are populated by creatures that will throw a wrench in your plans and attack if provoked. Once you get to the later, denser areas, you'll be dealing with an intricate, convincing ecosystem. Seeing a swarm of the spider-like Phyta creatures fight over a seed for the first time is a memorable moment. For the most part, however, you'll ignore the denizens of Mars. The real threat in this game is yourself.

Each area of Mars has its own starting conditions and there is no way of resetting them. So, if you make a mistake that triggers a chain reaction of even worse mistakes, you'll have to fix them all yourself, and that takes time. Things can go south really fast once you start dealing with the plants that shoot out explosive seeds and spores that convert other plants into different types. I found myself spending an extra 30 minutes in some areas to fix my mistakes, and while these are a result of my own actions, Waking Mars could have been a little more helpful in providing a number of plants fixed to an area and area-specific tips. I'm always up for a challenge but when that challenge revolves entirely around a player's time commitment, I just don't see the point.

The bigger problem with Waking Mars is that it just isn't very fun. The touch controls, fantastic soundtrack (dare I say better than Sword & Sworcery's music?!), distinct setting, sleek UI, and pacing of the first two-thirds of the game made me feel immersed in a refreshing environment. Planting seeds was kind of simple and jetpacking around the environment was decent enough -- awkward on an iPad, obscured by my finger on an iPhone. Despite the simplicity of the game, I enjoyed exploring its world and buying into its convincing fiction (a lot of which is based on scientific theory). Traveling and planting seeds soon becomes second hand and the game switches up scenarios (sometimes you are escaping a hostile area, for instance) often enough to keep things interesting, but then it just gives up.

It's the final third of the game that drags Waking Mars down. All of a sudden, the path forward isn't so clear. You are given various objectives without thorough descriptions. Your map is sometimes difficult to read -- I'd often think I explored every area only to notice I misread the map due to the color scheme (question icons in place of undiscovered areas would have fixed this).

The simple mechanics soon give way to a painful, thoughtless grind. Since the later areas have high Biomass requirements and more complex layouts, you'll need to acquire specific seeds to progress. This results in the player needing to make near endless trips back and forth between areas, acquiring seeds in one and planting in the other. It's like running a bucket between your kitchen and the burning house down the street, but at least that would entail tension and challenge. Instead of feeling like a scientist in an alien world, I began to feel like Mars' janitor.

Waking Mars is the sophomore effort from Tiger Style, whose debut Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor turned some heads during the early days of the App Store. Waking Mars is an ambitious game filled with elaborate systems, layouts, and ideas that aren't fully fleshed out but are novel, nonetheless. Creative designer Randy Smith has a love for science, which is more than apparent through the game's rich encyclopedic index and plausible sci-fi story and setting, and programmer David Kalina manages to make the world feel alive with creatures that react to each other in realistic ways. Still, that's not enough to keep the game engaging once the mechanics and systems fight against the player's curiosity to explore and experience this unique world.

If you are looking for a relaxing adventure title with a distinct mood, Waking Mars will scratch that itch you've had since finishing Ghost Trick and Sword & Sorcery. Just take my advice and shut the game off once you start getting frustrated, because things don't get any better after that point (including the uneventful endgame).



THE VERDICT

5.5

Waking Mars - Reviewed by Allistair Pinsof
Average - Like a meal of lukewarm water with white bread. It filled my time and my belly, but lacks any discernible flavor or nutritional value. A game that left me no different than it found me. Just passing through.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Allistair Pinsof,
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidAllistair

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.





 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Waking Mars


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Roses are black, PS4 lights are blue; This is a game, and it has valkyries too?

Cblogs of 02/10/16 and WONDER-isms

Modern face of survival horror

Discussion Discussion on Games

PStoid Episode 38: Doomed from the Box Art

Cblogs of 2/9/16 - Only Slightly Late Edition

Narrative Mistakes: Mass Effect's Reapers As Primary Villains

Journey to Become a Jedi Knight - Jedi Outcast

Waifu Wars - The End

Hindsight Part II: Unreleased Games of the Past

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Torchman avatarTorchman
WHY DO THEY GET SOUNDS BUT PIKACHU AND CHARIZARD CAN'T. WTF
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Finished my Storge set and 4/5ths of that was on the clock today o_O I also got a dragonlord eyepatch, which is totally practical covering the right eye when Cyndel's hair covers up the left eye.
Lawman avatarLawman
So Zack Furniss told me I should play Dying Light on Hard. Guess who's never listening to Zack Furniss again? :-/
EdgyDude avatarEdgyDude
Deadpool spoilers: He gets cancer.
beargreasey avatarbeargreasey
So Kanye just announced his new game, Only Once. It looks beautiful and personal. It's just a shame that I still have no idea what it is.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I dunno why people are getting so huffy about Windows Store / XbOne Quantum Break crossbuy. It means double the gamerscore for me, and AW and AW:AN are rereleasing on the One so I'll have owned them 3 times over. Great games.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
I once considered pitching an idea for a Dtoid Australia podcast, but then I realised it'd probably just be Zyk and I getting drunk on Foster's and complaining about Atlus for half an hour each week while incessantly calling each other cunts.
Parismio avatarParismio
New Splatfest is Pokemon Red vs Pokemon Blue. Im Blue Team bitches!
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Been sick but these pills are fixing me right up. [img]http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-don-t-call-it-a-comeback-i-ve-been-here-for-years-ll-cool-j-63-60-01.jpg[/img]
KingSigy avatarKingSigy
Why is it impossible to find a raid group in Destiny? Am I just cursed or something? All I want is to get a clan and do a raid.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I don't even care how the rest of this day is.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
*Starts up XCOM: UFO Defense* Alright, I'm ready to do this...hmmmm...not much going on. Space ship! Shot it down! Lets fight, I've played XCOM...wait...what the fuck do all these buttons do? Alright I got it now! Annnnnd 1/6 soldiers survived. Hmmm.
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
Going to Deadpool in 45 minutes. I can't wait to see Ryan Reynolds junk.
jak2364 avatarjak2364
http://www.game.co.uk/en/dying-light-the-following-the-spotlight-edition-only-at-game-298773 I'll need to ask for a credit line increase, but sure, why not?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Hnnnggg. My End of Evangelion video I made like 2 years ago has almost 700,000 views. I never thought it'd get this far. It was the first video I ever made and just did it for fun. Guess I have an eye for editing and an ear for music placement.
gajknight avatargajknight
I want to listen to classical music. But I'm in a funky mood right now. The solution?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Been watching Better Call Saul, being a pretty big fan of Breaking Bad, and it's been pretty decent. Like a b-side to BB. But, this scene with Trevor (GTAV)-famous Steven Ogg has been my highlight. There's more to it before this, but it's the best part.
Parismio avatarParismio
Whens the racist Wakka animation?:
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Well, wherever you are, Human...
jak2364 avatarjak2364
...Well, nice to know I could improve a game I didn't take a survey on!
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -