Mars:Mars – Jet-Pack Gameplay from Apple TV on Earth
Mars:Mars thrusts you via jetpack across the red planet–and other apparently terraformed planetary facsimiles–in an endless runner free-to-play game of pioneering exploration. Here’s what we discovered from Earth on Apple TV.
Mission to Mars
MarsCorp is sending the first intrepid pioneers on the Mars:Mars mission, equipped only with a jet-pack spacesuit–and you’ve been chosen. Left-right tap your thrusters between landing platforms (obviously built by previous robot missions) across the hostile landscapes and 0.376 G atmosphere. Unfortunately, your jet-pack fuel is limited and extremely explosive. No worries, you’re an astronaut and can (must) calibrate the thruster/velocity ratio to land on the platform softly–or explode into a million pieces. Land correctly and the platform dock replenishes your fuel so the exploration can continue. Think of yourself as a kind of Mission Control; playing different explorers sent via rocket by MarsCorp and unlocked by accumulating credits.
The thing is, the developers over at Pomelo Games have created some real quirky weirdness to an otherwise straightforward sounding game. Read on and I’ll explain.
A New Explorer has Arrived
Max the astronaut jets along discovering a supply pack. Soon a lander arrives– MarsCorp has sent a new explorer. When a new character is unlocked–which during gameplay costs 60 credits (or an in-app purchase)–the new arrival changes the game environment… drastically! Suddenly you are Aqualung, underwater, in either oceans locked beneath the Mars:Mars polar icecaps or in a totally new dimension–I’m not sure which. Currently 32 explorers are available ranging from Sci-Fi cool to downright absurd. The jet-pack/platform play action is the same, but the scene and sound fx/music alter for a refreshing and often hilarious change of pace. BTW, choose to watch a “new announcement from MarsCorp” (an ad) and receive 15 credits. One of the plusses of Apple TV play–fewer annoying and less intrusive ads than mobile platforms!
Pancho arrives; a sombrero wearing bandito with a guitar jet-pack and Mexican music to match, jetting in a seemingly terraformed Mars. Other explorers pay homage to (or ridicule) famous earthlings: Mars (Matt) Damon, Arnold (Schwarzenegger) or Willy (Smith) of Mars fame, or Stephen Hawking, Tesla and Steve (Jobs) relate to Mars:Mars cleverly. Where Frida (Kahlo), Ponsky (Banksy) or Marilyn (Monroe) fit in is kookily beyond me. Nevertheless a variety of characters means a greater variety of sounds & game environments and more laughs!
It took me a bit to figure out the jet-pack controls without exploding into pieces at maximum velocity. The key being: left bursts for distance with slight right stabiliser taps and left-right combos to land with ease onto the platforms like a feather. Of course crash & burns–or as NASA refers to failed launches: Rapid Unscheduled Disassemblies–are rather amusing. Keep in mind, playing on Apple TV’s Siri remote, turn it sideways like a gamepad. After that you just jet along and rack up points and new explorers. Sound rather hum-drum? On the contrary, the gameplay and scene changes keep you hooked. Lovely low-poly artwork showcases the array of different environments, along with explorer-specific sounds and sometimes music themes (like Pancho) which are executed wonderfully. Other features include bouncing off trees to get further without fuel use, occasional camera stations where you can take an explorer selfie (yes, really). My fave feature is the black hole, which appears in every environment, sucking you into nothingness–this may account for the odd alternate dimension feel of the different scenes. Or was it Mars:Mars terraforming… I don’t know!
I’m going to keep my eye on Pomelo Games… thanks amigos!