For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Winking Entertainment. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Virtual Reality games on the Playstation VR are now being quite steadily released after a lull over the winter holiday period. Winking Entertainment have now released their title Unearthing Mars, in which we get a closer look at out planetary neighbour in Mars – now was this exploration a good experience?
Unearthing Mars places you in the position of a co-pilot from a retrieval team, and wants to give the player the experience of a planet explorer. This is basically what the story resolves around – all be it a very linear story. Anyway, you are a co-pilot on the carrier-class spacecraft the Sentra, which has been tasked to investigate the retrieve the remnants of Phobos (a missing explorer satellite). But, this leads you to uncovering something entirely different, and this is where your VR adventure starts.
The gameplay consists of many different styles, and the game really does try to be a jack of trades – where this is a good thing as it mixes the game up a bit, it fails to stand-out in any of the areas. You will get dialogue options, get to co-pilot a spacecraft, get to explore Mars in a point and click style system, get to control a vehicle, solve some puzzles, and finally a gallery shooter type experience. So, you will see it offers a lot in regards to different gameplay techniques, but as mentioned previously it really fails to stand-out – and we will look at why now.
The dialogue system will give you multiple a few choices, but, the answers you give will have no baring on where the story will go. When co-piloting the spacecraft its more a dialogue systems, and pulling a few levers when requested, giving the feeling you’re doing little to help. When you are on Mars and doing the on-foot exploring, with it being point a click you are given designated spots to move around, until you finally get to the point to proceed with the story. The vehicle section of the game, rather than controlling it for the inside, you are presented with an RC type control system – where this is simple to control works, it seems it could have been better use of the VR if you were in the cock-pit. The puzzle sections were really quite simple, and took no time to figure them out. Now to the shooting gallery, this did work well for the game, but with it being a small section of the game it seemed out-of-place by it was introduced. Personally I think the game would have benefited from the shooting aspect a lot more if it happened more often.
Visually the game struggled to hold up compared to some of the titles available. Don’t get me wrong when I was playing it I did think some parts looked really good; like inside the spacecraft cock-pit, the shooting section, and some parts of the planet – but unfortunately these were ruined by mainly bland environments once you were exploring. The blandness of the environments was not helped by the point and click and system implemented for moving and exploring, because this system moves from the blandness onto points that are needed for the story being in higher detail.
The sound really is mediocre, the game isn’t really helped by the very poor voice acting – especially given parts of the game is dialogue based. Other than this you will find it hard to fall in love with the environmental sounds either. There was point of the game where I found some ancient pottery (as the character explains it), and when dropping this onto the planet it made a thump sort of sound, like it was something solid being dropped onto a carpeted floor. However, I did quite enjoy the old retro-style sci-fi gun noises on the shooting section – but this wasn’t enough to rescue the sound on the game.
Control wise the game really does a good job, I am glad Winking Entertainment have gone for the use of two Playstation Move Controllers (with the controllers representing each hand), because some of the gameplay options really did need this system. For the dialogue sections, and when co-piloting the spacecraft, you used your hands to either point at the option and pressing the trigger on the back to select it, or grabbing the object and either pulling or pushing it. On the driving sections, each hand turns into an RC looking controller – with the right controller trigger being accelerate, and the left controller trigger acting as reverse, you would then just move the controller in the direction you wanted it to turn. The point and click exploration element of the game you held square in to see where you could move to (via a teleport option), and triangle brought up you inventory for the parts of the game this was needed for. Your shooting elements was as you would expect moving the controller around for your reticule aim, and the trigger to shoot.
So, where the gameplay options seemed to fail to stand-out – the controls for every section and gameplay elements really worked for the game. With the use of the teleport movement system, and the fact you are controlling the car sort of like an RC means there is no discomfort or motion sickness while playing the game – but please keep in mind this was for me, and for some users this may be different.
For the length of the game you are looking at about 1 hour 30 minutes in order to play though the story of the game, and it really offers little in reason to go back and play it again. This being down to there is nothing outside of the story, and it’s simple to get all the Trophies for the game in the first play-through – for all the Trophy hunters out there, where this could have been reason to play it again.
Unearthing Mars manages to offer gamers many experiences, unfortunately it fails to master any of them. For the level the Playstation VR games are now currently coming out at, I feel this game could have been a success closer to launch. But, if you can put up with the mediocre voice acting, and the short story it is an option.