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A journey to the seemingly barren red wastes of Mars to recover a missing research probe becomes a fascinating crash-course in the realm of alien botany in Waking Mars. Instead of intense laser battles and intergalactic conflict, Tiger Style Games’ inventive sci-fi adventure uses thought-provoking exploration and creative problem solving to draw you into its story-driven depths.
As the head of a scientific expedition tasked with uncovering the mysteries of this long-dormant planet, you head down into Mars’ subterranean caverns armed with only a spacesuit and a jetpack. Getting around underground is easy enough, thanks to your suit’s maneuverable thrusters, but there’s a lot more to exploration than simply navigating around tight spots in the dynamic landscape.
Every new kind of alien plant-life you encounter adds a new facet to Waking Mars’ puzzles. Gathering different “Zoa” seed types lets you plant flora at specific fertile hotspots, triggering special effects and increasing the overall biomass density of each cavern enough to let you proceed to new areas. In essence, you’re creating a thriving garden in each area as you explore, though the plants have a range of important properties to take into consideration too. Some produce water to fertilize barren patches or yield food that allows creatures to reproduce, while others try to eat you or shoot explosive seeds that cause destruction. Figuring out a use for each plant type and where it fits within the complex ecosystem is a fun challenge, though finding the right balance to succeed becomes frustrating on rare occasion.
Despite its relaxed pace, Waking Mars isn’t a dull trek by any means. Frequent communications from your human partner on the surface break up the solitary stretches, and these interactions add snippets of humor to the unfolding story, despite some truly awkward exchanges. Narrative tension also builds as your scientific research reveals greater mysteries brewing far below the planet’s surface, making the desire to push onward grow stronger with each new discovery.
The bottom line. A great story and strong sci-fi atmosphere give Waking Mars some staying power, even if its complex and slow-placed creative puzzle exploration may not suit everyone’s tastes.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or later
Excellent sci-fi atmosphere. Simple touch controls. Deep alien flora puzzle system.
Pace lags slightly. Some of the character dialogue is awkward.