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

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).



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 * 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!

Cblogs of 11/27/15 - Life is Strange, and Sad

Top 5 Reasons Star Wars Battlefront KICKS ASS!

Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Little Slice of Childhood

Top 5 Reasons Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 IS AWESOME!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

Insidia REVIEW - A whole dark, gloomy, and kinda creepy world to explore

DS REVIEWS: Trace Memory

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
So... how long is it until we get the inevitable Colonial Marines or Ride to Hell: Retribution PS4/Xbox One re-releases?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Screw Bloodborne. I finally managed to overcome not tearing up while listening to the entirety of Never More. Git gud! [youtube][/youtube]
NYCpunk avatarNYCpunk
you know what's not okay? scalpers with 10 copies of fire emblem fates SE on ebay for $200+. and no one is saying anything.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Fallout 4 wouldn't be Fallout with ridiculous glitches and shenanigans. Here are a few I've run into - [youtube][/youtube]
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.
Lawman avatarLawman
Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....
Shinta avatarShinta
Wii U, top selling black friday item on Take that you anti-Wii U people.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
If you haven't played Tales from the Borderlands yet, GO BUY IT! By far the funniest game I have ever played, and the characters and narrative are incredibly well written. Very few memes unlike BL2 by the way.
more quickposts



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 -