February 2, 2023
Deliver us Mars is the follow up to 2018’s Deliver Us the Moon, a narrative adventure about an expedition to the Lunar surface in an effort to save humanity from certain doom. Set ten years later, Mars introduces to a world barely surviving, where the efforts of Rolf Robertsson merely delayed the inevitable.
Three “Arks” designed to preserve humanity were effectively stolen by the scientists who created them, leaving humanity and planet Earth in a hell of a mess. You play as Kathy Johansen, daughter of one of the defecting scientists. A young Astronaut and expert in the field of STREAME technology, Kathy is selected to go on a search and rescue expedition to find one of the Arks after its distress call is picked up. However, disaster strikes the mission, leaving Kathy and her team scattered across the surface of Mars.
What follows is roughly five or six hours of slow-paced exploration, puzzle-solving, and exposition, as you seek not only signs of life on Mars, but also anything that might reveal your father’s fate. As with Deliver us the Moon, Deliver Us Mars moves at a glacially slow pace. There are spikes of sudden activity, such as the sequence of events that lead to Kathy being stranded on the red planet.
There’s no combat in Deliver Us Mars, though Kathy can be killed by falling too far or other environmental hazards. She’s equipped with a cutting tool on her wrist, and a pair of climbing axes that she pulls out whenever she needs to climb. This is Mars’ primary new mechanic, and while it’s a little over-used in the middle section of the game, it at least adds a little tension. The animation is incredibly stiff and robotic when Kathy climbs though, something I repeatedly found distracting.
When you’re not climbing, you’ll sometimes spend need to get through zero gravity environments that feel just like you’re flying. They’re mechanically no different to the times when you control Kathy’s little service droid, ACE, who can navigate through ventilation systems or open certain locked doors. There are puzzles, too, which come primarily in two forms.
First there are decryption puzzles, awkward ciphers that require you to position ACE in certain place while moving up and down or side to side to slot three glowing blocks into the correct slots. Each one feels weird and unintuitive to solve, and the other puzzles are more enjoyable. These usually require you to direct energy beams (or STREAMEs) to receivers, often using beam splitters and magnifiers as they increase in complexity.
Being a story-rich game, Deliver Us Mars features a lot of talking and cutscenes. Thankfully, the performances are solid all round. Kathy feels believable – she’s not some Mary Sue instant hero. Rather, she acts young, excitable, but shows how capable she is when the chips are down. The way she interacts with the other characters is a credit to the narrative team at Keoken Interactive, and the story alone was enough to keep me playing.
Which is kind of the point here anyway. Deliver Us Mars isn’t intended to be some pulse-pounding adventure. There’s a slightly overlong section where you go through a shuttle’s launch sequence point-by-point, and a series of childhood flashbacks derail the pace entirely to divulge more backstory between Kathy, her father, and her sister Claire.
Visually, Deliver Us Mars isn’t great. Mars is, well, Mars, a wind-swept desert with nothing much to impress you. Elsewhere, you’re mostly looking at spacecraft interiors or rocky mines. Character models are hit and miss, and some of the animations, such as climbing, look stiff and unnatural. It also suffers from a fair amount of pop-in or missing textures, which can adversely affect the immersion of something so reliant on storytelling. I also experienced a few bugs such as ACE glitching through walls, and contextual commands failing to appear, necessitating a re-load.
All in all, Deliver Us Mars does a lot of what its predecessor did. The added climbing mechanic is used heavily for a few small portions of the game, and otherwise it’s mostly business as usual. You need to go into it knowing it’s a slow-burn adventure, with little real excitement for the entire duration. It’s heavily focused on story and exploration, both of which it does fairly well. It’s no thrill-a-minute blockbuster, but fans of the first game will find a lot to like here.
Kathy is likeable
Puzzles become repetetive
Deliver Us Mars is heavily focused on story and exploration, both of which it does fairly well. It’s no thrill-a-minute blockbuster, but fans of the first game will find a lot to like here.