We take a look at Mars Alive, out now exclusively for Playstation VR. Published by the PSVR veterans at Winking, here is our review.
When it was recently announced, after a brief Kickstarter campaign, I was looking forward to playing Winking’s latest – Mars Alive. The previous Winking title I played was Unearthing Mars 2, which was a visually impressive take on the red planet. Mars Alive’s trailer materials promised another adventure-filled tale on Mars, but the reality turned out to be that it’s more of a slow-paced survival/crafting romp than a high stakes adventure full of thrills.
In Mars Alive, you’re left stranded on Mars – fending for yourself on an inhospitable planet after eco-terrorists strike. That might sounds somewhat familiar if you saw The Martian, but Mars Alive is very different when it comes to its scripting and (especially) its pacing. There are similarities too, as just surviving is your primary focus and in order to do so you have to collect resources, rest and grow your own food.
You’re not confined to your own quarters though, as you can travel between different habitats. Traveling on foot is extremely slow, so you’ll be happy when you unlock a little Mars rover later in the game. Eventually, a teleport option also becomes available, but expect movement in general to be rather slow. As a result, your resource gathering starts to feel like a chore, as narrative progress is slow.
And where The Martian was filled with drama and suspense, a lot of the tension in Mars Alive is reduced by the fact that actually surviving doesn’t feel that hard. There are plenty of essential materials around and as long as you keep going through the motions, you’ll be fine – and going through the motions is a pretty slow process. As a result, the story doesn’t really take off or grab you like I expected it would, based on the trailers.
Much of the narrative progress is through your interactions with a fellow astronaut, who you can communicate with when inside a habitat. This gives you new destinations to travel to and new objectives to fulfill, but in many cases you’re just performing the same tasks in a slightly different place. I say slightly different for a reason, as Mars isn’t exactly littered with landmarks and feels more like a barren desert. As it should, but it doesn’t help the plot to branch out and move along in this case.
Audiovisually, I had hoped for more from Mars Alive, based on the gorgeous Unearthing Mars 2. I figure it fits the scene of being in a bleak predicament, but this version of Mars isn’t exciting to look at and the music/audio score doesn’t do much to build up tension or excitement either.
If you really adore exploration and crafting games and want to take a crack at one in VR, then this could be interesting to you. If you were hoping for an epic tale of survival and drama, then Mars Alive doesn’t quite deliver.