Deliver Us Mars needs some course corrections
A memorable, unique but ultimately frustrating journey.
In the race to have the most incredible and eye-popping visuals imaginable, sometimes games can feel a little... hollow? Sure, pushing the graphical envelope to its absolute limit will always be impressive, but it should always be in service of a game that is fun and entertaining to play. Some of the best and most memorable games of recent years - Undertale, Return of the Obra Dinn, Disco Elysium, Hades - weren't aiming to blow our minds with visual realism, but managed to give us some of the greatest hours of gameplay we've ever experienced.
And so we get to Deliver Us Mars, the sequel to 2018's minor hit Deliver Us The Moon, which manages to tell a very interesting and atmospheric story... but gets so hung up in attempting to up the technical ante, that it actually gets in the way of the gameplay. Even outside of the obvious issues involving dragging frame rates and technical glitches, the world of Deliver Us Mars is so hollow that it actively dismantles some of the good will built around it.
Playing #DeliverUsMars and absolutely nothing will take me out of a game faster than an obviously artificial and lifeless environment. pic.twitter.com/xtINBCI7Am
— Rory Cashin (@roarEcashin) February 5, 2023
Set in the not-too-distant future in which Earth is about to be completely destroyed by catastrophic climate events, you control Kathy (child of Isaac from the first game), one of the last astronauts left on the planet. In a last ditch effort to save humanity, you are one of four scientists sent to Mars to recover the ARKs that were stolen by criminals, one of which is believed to be your dad...
Through a cycle of platform sections, puzzle sections and plain old world traversal, you'll discover hidden depths to this family drama that are beautifully written and performed in the cut scenes, against a huge backdrop of the red planet and the future of our race. However, some of the controls are so finnicky - there isn't a strong enough word in the English language to define the frustration from the newly-implemented climbing abilities - and the presentation prone to messiness that you'd almost wish you could just watch the story play out in the cutscenes.
We say almost, because there are still moments of near-brilliance to be found here. The initial trip from Earth to Mars is littered with throat-in-mouth sequences that will call to mind the blockbuster highlights usually found on the big screen in the likes of Gravity and The Martian, except here you're controlling the action. Wondering around the vastness of Mars is at times properly beautiful and scary, the sheer sense of scale at times feeling more than a little overwhelming. And even without villains to shoot at or big monsters chasing you down, there is a unique foreboding atmosphere to be found throughout.
At about a six hour completion time, it also doesn't outstay its welcome, and will leave you with loads to mull over. If only the developers didn't overextend their reach, then what they already had in their grasp would've been that much more impressive.
Deliver Us Mars is available on PlayStation, Xbox and PC right now.