Deliver Us Mars is exactly the kind of sci-fi Tomb Raider I can follow

I have known for a long time that becoming an astronaut will never be my life’s calling. My eyesight is terrible, for example, and I guarantee you I’d vomit all over the walls if I was ever placed inside one of those heavy-duty whirling machines to simulate the experience of launching into space. In fact, if the two hours I spent playing Deliver Us Mars last week were anything to go by, I don’t think I’d even make it through NASA’s doors. They’d give me one look and instantly dismiss me, because man alive, even my fingers hurt after going through a couple of different sections from the beginning of the game’s story.

There’s a good reason for that, though, and it’s one that actually enhanced my gaming experience instead of detracting from it. You see, while heroine Kathy might look like a car-climbing astronaut Lara Croft, with her pair of pickaxes dangling from her suit, in practice she’s anything but. In fact, when she’s climbing up and down walls, Kathy has more in common with Grow Home’s little robot BUD than anyone else, albeit at a significantly higher polygon count. As she carries on her quest to find the technology to save the Earth from an imminent climate crisis, players manually control her climbing movements with left and right mouse button presses and pushes, carving a path through the tangle of beams and metal bulkheads of the game. one ax stab at a time. It’s a slow process, but a beautifully tactile one, and it all adds up to launch Deliver Us Mars straight out of the traditional third-person action canon and into the wholly stellar realms of platform pioneers.

Of course, if you saw James’ Deliver Us Mars Gamescom preview in August, none of this will surprise you. In that earlier demo, Kathy’s climbing was also very much in the foreground, which also left James impressed despite some slightly stiff animations. I’ve never seen that previous build, so I can’t vouch for its technical quality, but there was definitely nothing during my preview session that gave me cause for concern. If nothing else, it proved that Keoken’s decision to delay play to February 2 next year was the right one.

In reality, though, the core of my demo centered around solving the puzzles of Deliver Us Mars, first at one of the first space stations Kathy encounters upon arriving on Mars, and then inside a wrecked satellite rocket teetering on the edge of a large rock face. As a sequel to Keoken Interactive’s 2018 narrative platformer Deliver Us The Moon, Mars builds on many of the same puzzling underpinnings. In the first section, for example, I had to open a set of locked doors by firing a laser into a kind of pie-like electric splitter, aiming offshoots at the appropriate locks to power the long-abandoned door frames. There was a strange semi-transparent balloon-like object that I could also use to alter the strength of the laser, as some doors needed more power.

In retrospect, I should have called the pie smasher a giant Oreo with legs…

This trick was carried over to the second ship, only this time it involves far more lasers and splitters to power the satellite’s control room. Kathy wasn’t alone in all of this, however. Much like the protagonist of Deliver Us The Moon, she is accompanied by a small aerial robot called Ayla on her journey to the red planet, who in another life could easily be the long lost cousin of Portal 2’s Wheatley, they are so similar in their overall design. Alas, Ayla clearly wasn’t hardwired to speak at least two lines a minute like her Portal counterpart, though given the current debate over fellow chatterboxes (looking at you, God Of War: Ragnarok), perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise .

Still, even if all Ayla can muster is the occasional bleep and bloop, she’s definitely handy to have around. In fact, while Kathy can do some manual maneuvering of her laser splitters on the ground, she can’t jump with them or lift them to higher surfaces. Enter Ayla, who can easily levitate all kinds of objects and drop them wherever they are needed, including some high platforms where multiple battery stations need their respective power sources. Working together with Ayla to put everything into place was key to solving this second big puzzle, and it felt like a satisfying evolution of what I’d solved previously. If Keoken can continue to build on their puzzles like this later in Deliver Us Mars, it could end up being an enjoyable puzzler (although I’ll need a bit more variety than just lasers and splitters – there’s only so many they can throw at me before it starts to get a little mechanical).

A profile side of a female astronaut on the surface of Mars in Deliver Us Mars

An astronaut climbs the golden surface of a crashed ship in Deliver Us Mars.

An astronaut looks at a big machine in Deliver Us Mars.

Turning on the satellite dish control room was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my entire demo.

Ayla is good for more than just being a laser splitter herd horse, though. Given her more outlandish proportions compared to Kathy, she can also transform through vents and sneaky passageways to get into rooms that Kathy can’t, so you’ll need to watch out for these as you progress. But whereas other third-person games would simply have you tap a button in these cases to let your AI companion do everything for you (*cough*God Of War again*cough*), Deliver Us Mars puts you in control of Ayla’s movements, allowing you to pilot her in first person with a tap of the C button. Again, this isn’t all that dissimilar to Deliver Us The Moon, nor is it all that revolutionary in isolation. But in an age where so many third-person puzzle solving is becoming more and more automated these days, it’s just nice to do it all yourself for once, you know?

That said, I’m sure there will still be a handful of people who crave that sense of automatic ease, particularly when it comes to the furry cinematic platforming segments of Deliver Us Mars. In my demo, this occurred during a very tense climb up one of the satellite rocket’s crumbling inner walls. I won’t lie, my stomach always does a little flip when floors fall and suddenly you’re traveling upwards instead of forwards in a game, especially if the thing you’re stepping on is also in the process of breaking at part into a hundred tiny pieces. But having to do all of this while holding my fingers up on the mouse to hold Kathy down so she doesn’t tumble off the cliff below? This is the place for pants, especially when even your ears are bombarded with the sound of metal ripping and menacing mechanical moans. Again, though, it’s the thrill of being in full control that makes this sequence so tense, and I think a lot would be lost if all I was doing was wagging an analog stick for some auto-jumping action.

So yeah, I ended up stretching a lot of hand muscles I didn’t even know I had while playing Deliver Us Mars, but I wouldn’t trade those soreness for anything either. It was nice to be fully invested in what I was doing and have creaky joints to show afterward, and I just hope the rest of Deliver Us Mars does well on the foundation Keoken has laid here throughout the rest of its history. If nothing else, the delay until February 2, 2023 should give me enough time to establish a proper exercise routine for my atrophied ligaments, as I’d like to be in peak condition to see if it can really, ahem, deliver what I’ve seen so far.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: