Mars Underground Review — Do you ever have Déjà vu?
I have a confession to make; I never had a first-day-at-a-new-school experience.
I went to the same school for my entire scholastic career, from the age of five to 18. And honestly, my first day as a five-year-old really just involved playing games like Duck Duck Goose and climbing the playground all day. I really feel I’ve missed out on an important, and by all reports, deeply harrowing experience.
Luckily, Mars Underground came along to school me.
Mars Underground Review
Mars, his mother and sister have just moved to a new town. He goes to his new school and then to a session with his psychologist due to some undefined trauma from his past. He dutifully takes his prescribed pills before falling into bed…and the world literally ending.
Upon waking, he finds himself reliving the same day all over again and again. That’s right folks, we’ve got ourselves a Groundhog Day situation right here!
Mars Underground is a top-down, 8-bit style adventure developed by Canberra-based indie studio Moloch Media. The player’s job is to explore the world and to help Mars figure out what the heck is going on. The items and pieces of information you collect along the way carry over to each new cycle.
Each has a purpose that branches out your options to explore, and part of the fun is in discovering what weird and wacky reason you have for coming into possession of it. Yes, even poop is useful in weird and wonderful ways! The more you know.
Anything Different is Good
Each day is made up of 10 time periods — Early Morning, Late Afternoon etc — and certain events occur only at certain times. Much of the player’s tasks lie in establishing what happens when and where and trying to time movements just right to try out whatever new theory they’re brewing.
It’s super gratifying when your intuitions about the significance of these turn out to be true, and perplexing when they don’t.
Upon being dropped into the world after the first walk-‘em-up style day, the number of choices you can make and the sheer possibilities can feel a bit overwhelming. Moloch Media has done a fantastic job of combatting this choice paralysis by implementing a handy hint system that you can either heed or ignore.
The option to receive a hint will pop up at the start of the new day every so often and you can choose to accept a hint and even drill down further into more detailed instructions. Or you can tell it to get lost entirely; ‘cos you’ve got this.
Don’t Drive Angry!
Each character is great fun, written with wit and charm. Some are total jerks, some are literal toilets and others are potential best friends. A lot of the fun of the game lies in discovering new interactions with them and the ways in which they contribute to your journey; some of the conversations are downright hilarious.
The game runs smoothly and has minimal bugs. Its 8-bit graphical style is delightful and the retro soundtrack brings fun old-school gaming energy to the game. The only slightly jarring aspect of it is that the vehicles in the world seem a little… tiny… in comparison to their surroundings and sometimes stick to the edge of my screen instead of driving entirely out of the scene.
Although Mars Underground doesn’t have a clearly defined endgame — other than to unlock each possible ending — the game does a great job at drawing the player in and stirring curiosity about each outcome (and possibly, death).
Mars Underground is an addictive adventure that will utterly captivate your attention with its surreal twists and turns, convincing you to try just one more cycle.
Just. One. More. Cycle!
If you’re a fan of games with cunning time travel mechanics, you’ll have a great time with this.
Mars Underground was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by Moloch Media.
Game title: Mars Underground
Game description: A top-down, 8-bit style adventure in the style of Groundhog Day
Addictive Groundhog Day narrative - 9/10
Hilarious character interactions - 8.5/10
Charming 8-bit style graphics - 7.5/10
Fun retro soundtrack - 8.5/10
Helpful, unintrusive hint system - 8.5/10