Deliver Us Mars takes place ten years after the events of Deliver Us the Moon and this time, as the game’s title suggests, you’ll be journeying to our neighboring planet. You play as a young astronaut, Kathy Johanson, who is part of a team tasked with traveling to Mars to retrieve some vital technology in the hopes of saving the dying Earth.
If you’ve played the original game then many of the characters you meet will be familiar to you. While you could play this as a standalone title, you’ll get a lot more out of it and have a much greater understanding of the story and your crew’s motives if you play Deliver Us the Moon first.
This time around, the story has a much more personal and intimate feel to it. While there’s always the backdrop of your mission to save Earth, it’s more the relationships between the various characters that’ll keep you wanting to move forward and discover more. There are some absolutely fantastic performances from many of the voice actors which really help to enhance some of the emotional moments you’ll come across.
Kathy isn’t just trying to find technology to help save our home planet, but also to uncover what’s happened to the Mars colonists, including her father. As you explore you’ll gain a greater understanding of what’s going on by finding various collectables. These come in the form of holograms, text messages, and notes between the colonists, which will start to fill in some of the blanks. You’re only given little bits of information at a time, but it’s always just enough to make you want to continue and find the next clue. What makes things really fascinating is that the majority of the characters you meet are morally ambiguous. You’ll really start to question if what you and your team are doing is the ‘right’ thing to do.
Occasionally you’ll come across various puzzles which block your way. Things like locked doors where you’ll need to position energy beams to open them, or decryption puzzles that have you moving your little flying robot pal Ayla around. These puzzles start off simply but grow in complexity as you get further through the game. None of them are particularly difficult, but that’s actually a good thing as it means the pace of the game is never slowed down. You’ll constantly be pushing forward to try to uncover the next piece of the story.
One of the big new mechanics in the game is climbing. Kathy is much more nimble than the original astronaut, and can climb using her ice picks to travel up surfaces on Mars, or along fabric insulation inside the space station. You’ll control each arm separately, manually repositioning each pick and then using the L2 and R2 triggers to stab your picks into the wall in order to climb. It seems neat at first and it’s easy to get into a rhythm of alternating between the triggers, but it quickly gets tiresome.
There’s a reason most games just automatically let your character climb. Having to do it manually is not only slow but it also tires out your fingers. There are some accessibility options like only having to use one of the triggers, but you’ll still be constantly holding it down so none of the options really help. It can also be pretty finicky whenever you have to jump across gaps to the next climbable section, and more often than not you’ll end up throwing yourself in completely the wrong direction to your untimely death.
There are a number of different environments you’ll get to explore, not just the red sands of Mars but also a space station, an icy valley, as well as some scenes on Earth. There’s definitely something very beautiful and serene about driving a space rover across the desolate landscape, or looking out through a porthole into the depths of the cosmos. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that Earth is less visually impressive. The setting tends to be used for flashbacks which tell Kathy’s backstory, but they lose some of their emotional impact due to frame rate slow-down and frequent pop-in, which is much less noticeable everywhere else in the game.
Unfortunately, we did run into a couple of bugs during our six to eight-hour playthrough, things like being unable to interact with mechanisms that are needed to open doors. For the most part the game’s frequent autosaving means a quick reload never puts you too far back. However, we did run into one annoying situation where the game autosaved us right in front of a deadly spinning fan, meaning we were locked in a cycle of reloading into instantaneous death. The only way we managed to resolve that was by completely restarting the chapter.
Many of these issues are fairly minor, though, and it doesn’t stop Deliver Us Mars being a brilliantly captivating adventure. Sure, the puzzles are fairly simple but there are enough epic set pieces, intriguing collectables, story twists, and a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack that you’ll be fully invested in seeing Kathy’s journey through to the end. Developer KeokeN Interactive has definitely built on the successes of the first game to create another poignant storyline that’ll hold your attention for its entire run-time.
Deliver Us Mars has an entrancing sci-fi story that will keep you thinking long after the credits roll. There are a few little issues, such as a boring climbing mechanic and frame rate drops on Earth, but with some fantastic voice acting it’s easy to get really invested in the characters and the fate of humanity. The simple puzzles do a good job at giving your brain a little workout while never being so taxing that they slow down the pace of the action. Overall, this is a great follow-up that delivers a compelling sci-fi narrative.