Sometimes we all need a break from the chaos which dominates gaming today; frustrated with first person shooters? Sick of surviving multiple zombie apocalypses? All Role-played out of Role-playing games? Tiger Style’s Waking Mars offers a glimmering spark of recuperation from the norm, as this adventure game takes you on a unique scientific journey of discovery under the surface of the red planet.
You take up the role of entrepreneurial scientist Liang, as he begins his descent, and indeed the first human descent, into a large cave system, Lethe Cavern, below the surface of Mars. Armed only with a protective suit and a jetpack, you very quickly discover a primitive ecosystem within the caverns, and begin to manipulate it using a variety of plants called ‘Zoa’. The primary plant, the ‘Halid Zoa’, is easily recognisable by it’s bright green seed and extremely leafy foliage, which work to greatly contrast against the hauntingly lonesome surroundings of natural red-tinted rock. The simple objective behind the game is that each plant and creature adds to a total of ‘biomass’, and a certain level of biomass is required to open the passage to the next area.
Waking Mars introduces these concepts slowly and easily, which is vital for a game which requires you to think about your next strategy. You also have a research log available to you, which records all the information learnt while delving into the depths of the planet. A lot of thought has gone in to the development of the interconnected eco-system; with over a dozen plants and alien creatures to master, sometimes simultaneously, too many mistakes can require a fair bit of leg-work in order to produce enough biomass.
The game rapidly shifts from an atmosphere of discovery to one of survival, as your presence and impact on the eco-system of the caves causes an influx of rock-weakening acid, which consequently causes a cave-in. This results in the loss of communication with your partner at base camp, Amani, and leaves you stranded with your in-suit artificial ‘intelligence’, ART. ART functions to bring humour to your journey by insulting your intelligence, stating the obvious and his various keyboard-created faces in the top right corner of the screen while speaking; ‘:O’ ‘:)’ etcetera.
Unfortunately to unlock the special ending and complete everything, a fair bit of repetition is required in terms of travelling backwards and forwards to different areas to acquire supplies. It can also be frustrating at times when alien creatures accidentally kill themselves in the environment, losing that vital biomass until you can encourage them to reproduce again. With a playtime of roughly 6 hours, and the game costing £6.99 on Steam; this game is less catered towards a budget as in my opinion there is little re-playability value. The enjoyment of this game derives from the suspense of the storyline and the wonder of what will be experienced next in terms of game-play elements.
Flaws aside, what Tiger Style has managed to achieve with Waking Mars is inspiring. Their approach to the portrayal of our red neighbour in our solar system represents everything we as humans would love to wake up to; the discovery of alien life. Although the game has been available on the iPhone and iPad from early 2012, the PC release is perfectly timed with NASA’s ongoing exploration of the planet Mars with the Curiosity Rover, and delivers one romanticised opinion of the future of our relationship with the universe we live in. 3/5.