Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Also Available On: PS4, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S
Price: $29.99 – Digital Only
Developer: KeokeN Interactive
Publisher: Frontier Foundry
Release Date: February 2, 2023
Please Note: A review code was provided by Frontier Foundry but does not influence opinions in this review.
Indie games come in all shapes and sizes, and this team has made something massive with only approximately 20 people at KeokeN Interactive. Space, comics, lasers, puzzles, and so many other things can be used to classify someone as a “geek”; all four of these things are in the game. Deliver Us Mars, is a sequel to the terrific Deliver Us The Moon, and just like the first game, you get to explore somewhere other than Earth. Most people cannot go to space, as of now, but in this game, you sometimes may get the feeling you are in the shoes of Kathy. Since I played the first title pretty recently in October 2022, I have been eagerly anticipating Deliver Us Mars, which has finally released. Is it as good, or better, than the first game? Read on to find out.
You play as Kathy Johanson where she works for an organization called the WSA. You and three other companions, must travel to the surface of Mars to find ARKs to bring back to Earth in order to save the dying planet. The story takes you on many different twists, turns, and has many elements of what is going on. There are quite a few stories to uncover, but there are 3 different mainline story arcs. One of these, are flashback segments that take you to a specific moment in her childhood. The second one is the story of what truly occurred on the planet of Mars, by finding Holograms and solving a simple puzzle. The final segment of the story is the present day of what Kathy and her companions are going through. Sometimes there are games that have multiple story arcs, some are better than others. In this game; however, none of them fall off compared to the other. The plot in the game is so gripping that I had to play the entire game in one sitting, which was about 8 hours for me. I will not say more than that, since the story is one of the best parts in the game and I don’t want to spoil it.
There are many different aspects to gameplay, but the major ones are exploration and puzzle solving. The game is mostly a linear adventure with some elements of open area exploration, but not a huge amount. There are a total of eight main chapters, plus a prologue and epilogue/nineth chapter. Throughout the game you will be traversing areas, collecting items, solving puzzles, and exploring the mysteries around the WSA and the colonies on Mars. There are many instances of puzzles that will impede your progress, thankfully most of them are fairly straight forward to figure out. These puzzles require you to beam lasers to power up different areas, use beam splitters or an item that reduces the beams power as each spot requires a different power level. There are a few trickier ones, but a lot of them are pretty simplistic to solve. Other than that, gameplay is about exploration or finding collectables.
The exploration moments require you to either use Kathy, young or adult, or her A.S.E. machine, AYLA, she got from her father, Isaac. There are different items that you can find on the red planet and hidden collectables scattered throughout the story. These range from comic books, text messages, and more. These different collectables, minus the comic books, all have more backstory about the individuals who were stationed there or more about the whole project. There are times when you use an ability that was not in the first game, wall climbing. This was, even though I thought it was a cool addition, something I wish was worked on more since it wasn’t very fluid. Within the game, there are times where you are in first person view; however, mostly you are in third person. While I don’t love first person in games, I am starting to get used to it more.
For a AAA experience, I would be a little let down by what was here in terms of performance. But in terms of an indie adventure, I am happy with how the game runs. There are issues with framerate being unstable in certain open areas, or when you are in airlocks it would be a little messy for a second. Usually when you were inside buildings, it was thankfully pretty stable. The graphics in this game feel improved compared to the first game, but they are pushing things hard. There is pop-in when it comes to areas on the surface of both Mars and Earth. These are for smaller things like trees or graphical detail, so it wasn’t too bad since the main focus points in those sections were just fine. Hopefully they can patch the game to fix the performance and pop-in issues soon. Overall, I was happy when it came to how the game ran.
The music in this game is terrific throughout the entire adventure. From the eerie sounds in certain sections to the upbeat music in others, they all work well together with what is happening. The audio design with the different things such as the lasers, the ASE robots, the footsteps, the climbing, and everything else is well crafted. There was one occasion with the audio where someone seemed like they were talking and descriptive text showed up, but I couldn’t hear anything. Otherwise it was pretty solid. Speaking of, the voice acting in this game is incredible. There are moments of tragedy, heartbreak, panic, happiness, joy, and a lot of other emotions within the title. All the lines of dialogue show that these voice actors all really cared what they were doing.
The overall visuals were honestly a little bit of a mixed bag for me. Where the visuals of the game shines is in the different cutscenes. The characters and items all have great fidelity, and the movement is very nicely crafted. There are also certain areas that are beautiful when not in motion; however, in motion they were a mixed bag due to the performance issues and pop in I had. The character models all look great, but when speaking, their facial animations were just a little bit off. The different sets that were created, such as the ARKs all were very nicely built overall. The planets of Mars and Earth, all had pluses and minuses in terms of the great art and scenery. There were no massive issues with the art or visuals, and most of the time it was nice, but sometimes in motion it wasn’t always terrific which is a shame.
Is the game without flaw? No, but to be quite honest, no video game really is anymore. The major issue I had with this game, I already mentioned previously; the unstable framerate in open areas. It’s not a game ending issue for me, but it is something that got to me after a little while. A second issue was, even though I thought it was a great addition for traversal, the wall climbing parts didn’t always work for me. I would press the triggers, which by the way are adaptive triggers on PS5, and Kathy wouldn’t latch onto the wall. The last issue I had was in the level with the quarry. I had to jump from an elevator to a wall, but I had missed the jump. When I re-loaded into the game based on the checkpoint, I got an infinite death checkpoint so I had to restart the level, which took me about 15 minutes to do. This made me a little upset, but I pressed on and had no other instances of this thankfully. Something I despise is when a game hard crashes, and I can say that I personally had no crashes for this title. There are bugs in the game and some issues, but nothing game breaking, and overall thought it was okay.
Finally, what are my overall thoughts on the game? I think the story is an absolute home run with the three different paths that it takes. The audio, music, and voice acting is also an amazing achievement for an indie team to create something this big. The visuals, while the framerate was another issue, were overall really well made and seems to be pushing what the team can craft. The performance of the game was a small bit of a let down compared to how smooth Deliver Us The Moon is. The new wall climbing ability might not be terrific, but otherwise I cannot fault the gameplay throughout the title with the puzzle solving or exploration. Deliver Us Mars is an ambitious adventure from a small team and the ability that these individuals have to create something this big is truly astonishing. While it is pricier than its predecessor, if you enjoy Deliver Us The Moon, you will like Deliver Us Mars and I think it is worth the $29.99; even with all of the small/medium sized issues I discussed. If they come out with a physical copy sometime down the line, I may just have to add it to my collection. Now, to answer my question from the beginning. I consider the sequel better than the first adventure because of how big the team is reaching, even if there are more issues compared to the first one. Now, when are we actually getting to Mars in real life? Who knows… but you can travel to the planet today through the eyes of Kathy Johanson.
Review Score: 8/10