Although stories about it will continue to persevere, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully understand the fascination with Mars. It holds some interesting facts but is overall a giant ball of red rock that humans are obsessed with visiting. Another journey based on this is underway thanks to Deliver Us Mars by KeokeN Interactive. This is a narrative game that has you controlling an astronaut across the rocky red surface for the mission and for herself. There’s a lot to be felt as you make your way through what aims to be a grounded story that is literally out of this world.
Who Will Deliver Us Mars?
Sometimes the point of a game’s story is to address the meaning behind the title, which is the approach that Deliver Us Mars is using. You play as Kathy Johnasson, a talented astronaut and engineer working on solutions to the earth’s problems. Things kick off when a mysterious transmission seemingly from her father Isaac is received by her and her colleagues. Since Isaac and his collaborators are responsible for stealing the ARKs, giant ships intended for sustainable living, Kathy and her team are understandably curious to hear from him. They trace the source back to Mars and decide to take a trip there in hopes of finding out what happened while trying to recover the ARKs. Strap in and prepare for what awaits on Mars.
Deliver Us A Story
An odd genre of gaming has appeared in recent years called “walking simulators”. While I have no problem with games trying to be an interactive film or visual novel, you need to through some excitement in there to help make the transitions more engaging. Deliver Us Mars does this quite well, with various parts of its environment to that end. In addition, the slow walk-and-talk segments are exciting and sometimes stressful ones. Whether this is trying to find a source of oxygen during a long stretch or floating around in space, the game certainly knows how to pace itself well so that you actually feel the story as you’re making your way through it.
On that note of pacing, the game uses build-up effectively. There are multiple moments where you need to be very meticulous as you do a bunch of small tasks. This may sound tedious but it actually feeds into the sense of anticipation for what’s to come. One specific example is in the rocket just before take-off: You’re in a first-person view in front of a wide and intimidating console as you have to flip switches, turn dials, and push/pull levers precisely and deliberately. After each one, you get a sense of just how close you are to blasting off, and when it finally happens… It feels earned.
When you’re focusing on such a narrative experience, dialogue can play a large role. Although the cast of characters is relatively small, this works in the game’s favor. Each one of them gets some time to reveal their personality gradually as Kathy gets face time with all of them. Their conversations and interjections seem natural and real enough considering the situation that they find themselves in. Also, due to the lack of a large cast, the impact of Kathy’s isolation and loneliness in certain aspects of the game, especially after you learn what kind of person she is and get a sense of her mannerisms.
In terms of the gameplay, there are elements that challenge you in getting through the story. The most prominent is the oxygen mechanic. It essentially makes every visit to the surface or outside of the ship a ticking clock. It’s just enough pressure to remind you of where you are and what you need to focus on. When the game combines this with realistic climbing mechanics and wide-spread puzzles, the pressure is on without being crushing. Overall, there’s enough game in this interactive story to keep you alert.
Maybe it’s just me, but it’s hard giving narrative-heavy games high praise when compared to other genres. For example, Stray has a big story focus, which is what makes it so charming. But it’s also about a cat jumping, running, and sneaking around while solving puzzles, avoiding predatory creatures, and evading security systems. Deliver Us Mars definitely has adequate gameplay, but could use some more, considering the subject matter. The climbing gets frustrating at times, and there are many puzzles that you can solve without much effort. It makes you feel like the game doesn’t want you to spend too much time actually playing as opposed to watching.
Speaking of the story unfolding, the visuals can work against it at times. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad-looking game by any means. Still, it’s certainly not as detailed as it could be. The character models at times can be robotic, with stoney faces that barely convey emotion. This is especially obvious when you’re expecting to see emotions on display. There are also times when the textures on characters and the environment can look bland. Sadly, they stand out starkly against the redness of the planet you spend most of your time on.
Then there are the rendering issues. This game may feel big, but suffers when it comes to processing. It has a surprisingly low draw distance with many objects just popping into existence when you get close enough. It may not be a big problem, but several scenes highlight this by popping in such objects consecutively.
Deliver Us Mars via Express
Deliver Us Mars is a 3D narrative-adventure game about an astronaut going to Mars to find her father. It knows how to present a story with good pacing, exciting gameplay elements, and a dialogue that works well. Unfortunately, the graphics and rendering are jarring with many of the challenges being tedious or too simple. However, it’s still a game that can hold your attention and maybe tug at your heartstrings. For those wanting a story on another planet, KeokeN Interactive can deliver us Mars.