Waking Mars Review
- Deep and complex interactions; some intuitive, while others require more experimentation to learn.
- Smooth single-touch controls; jetpack around caverns with ease while lobbing ‘seeds’ to survive.
- Detailed, high-resolution visuals; both alien and familiar at the same time.
- Possible to make some areas functionally useless; most errors are reversible in time though.
- Liang is prone to get caught on edges at times; makes navigation haphazard in some zones.
Waking Mars mixes human curiosity with a fascinating storyline straight out of the pages of a sci-fi classic; learn to master Mars’ complex ecosystem and find out whether or not there truly is sentient life close to home.
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When Tiger Style debuted on the App Store with Spider, it demonstrated their strength as a developer by combining unique gameplay elements, controls designed specifically for a touch-based platform and a fascinating backstory told through found visual elements. After what seems like forever, the studio is back for round two with Waking Mars, an intriguing platformer where you’ll need to rely on your curiosity to survive the planet’s hazardous depths.
You play as Liang, a scientist learning about Mars’ unique ecology. Unfortunately, while attempting to research the plant-like creatures that inhabit the labyrinthine caves, Liang sets off a chain-reaction of events that traps him below the surface and it’s up to him to use his newly-found knowledge to escape before running out of life-support.
At the core of the game is an intriguing system that requires players to cultivate ‘plants’ of varying types in order to reach a ‘biomass’ level that will allow you to proceed. While earlier levels teach you the basics, you’ll need to experiment extensively by forcing the plants to interact with each other in order max-out the biomass in later levels. Simple interactions such as using Hydron seeds (a water based plant) to add moisture to a Halid plant (a basic flowering plant) will cause it to grow and provide seeds and a healing aura. Far more complex interactions include breeding mobile Phyta plants in order to feed them to Larians in order to obtain nutrient rich fertilizer to boost the biomass of certain Zoa.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry, the game tracks all of your ‘research’ in to a handy guide and while you may mess up some areas with your experimentation, you can always come back to fix them up later.
Aside from trying to survive, Liang is also caught up in trying to find a lost robotic probe that has found signs of a sentient species. Of course having neighbors that aren’t just plant-like, but rather truly sentient is far too tempting for a scientist to let go - you’ll be taken along the journey, unlocking Mars’ secrets by helping the local wildlife to flourish.
From its gorgeous environments that slowly bloom as you apply your research, to the fascinating depth of interactions that eventually take on a life of their own, Waking Mars is almost impossible to put down. Just as soon as you’ve learned to deal with an area’s complex Eco-system, you’ll have something new thrown in to the mix, be it a gauntlet of hazardous plants to trying to revive dormant areas exposed to the planet surface.
Lightning has struck twice and Tiger Style’s Waking Mars once again demonstrates a masterful mixture of elegantly simple controls, a wonderfully deep and complex system of interactions, and a narrative that keeps you coming back for more. A must have for all iOS gamers.