Dunno if you’ve noticed by there’s an awful lot of sci-fi games on the way, most of which – these being games – revolve around shooting space creatures to glowing green bits. Deliver Us Mars, the recently delayed sequel to Deliver Us The Moon, takes a more peaceful option, now blending the original’s puzzling with some Tomb Raider reboot-style platforming. Your deadliest enemy here is gravity, and as far as I understand, you can’t shoot that.
I played through a fairly early section of Deliver Us Mars at Gamescom, and despite a few glimpses of why it might have been pushed back (from September 2022 to February 2nd, 2023), I was left encouraged by the meatiness of the new traversal methods and intrigued by the game’s mysteries. As in Deliver Us The Moon, you’re dispatched from a dying Earth in pursuit of tech that might save it, but there’s a more personal touch: you’re also after your dad, seemingly the one who absconded with the MacGuffins in the first place.
One crash landing later and the search is on, taking us – that’s Kathy, your curious cosmonaut character, and AYLA, her beep-booping floating drone companion – to a Martian quarry built in suspiciously short order by Dad and his partners in crime. It’s immediately apparent that Deliver Us Mars will be a more colourful adventure than its lunar predecessor, red rock and orange skies making a welcome change from greys and blacks. Further environmental variety, like icy canyons, is on the cards as well.
The descent into the quarry also provides an extended look at Kathy’s skills with a pair of climbing axes. The climbable wall sections are clearly marked, but rather than simply scamper across them Lara Croft-style, you’ll need to position each axe (and hold them in position) individually. Accidently release at the wrong time, and you’ll plummet – maybe a bit slower than on Earth, but still – to your death, unless you have space below to slam in both axes and slow your fall.
This sounded a tad tedious when it was explained to me, but in practice, I like it. Having to focus on axe placements means you’re never just holding down a directional key to progress, and there was genuine tension at some moments as I tried to position a tricky left-click while literally holding down right-click for my life. And the audio design, oof: stabbing aluminium into rock has never sounded so satisfying.
The only catch is Kathy’s oddly robotic climbing animations, arms and legs stretching and twisting almost independently of a static, unbending torso. Developers KeokeN Interactive have sprung for fully mo-capped cutscenes with facial capture, but these also serve to highlight the moments when Kathy goes stiff. Hopefully these can be smoothed out a bit over the extra few months.
Other technical hitches were minor, but noticeable: a floating stone here, an FPS drop there, a strange shadow suddenly covering exactly half of Kathy’s face like she’s doing a Deathstroke cosplay on zero budget. Again, there’s work to do, though between the climbing and a couple of jumping puzzles later in the demo, it looks like KeokeN do have the new traversal challenges down.
The puzzles have a nice physicality to them, too. There were only a couple in the preview, but both involved movement: either remote piloting AYLA to open holographic locks, or mantling between rooms to activate a criss-crossing pair of power-generating beam emitters. Some suspension of disbelief is required to avoid logical nit picking – there is a lot of “why would anyone build X like this?” – but… come on. You’re on Mars.
Following a little drama injection by way of a collapsing lift, then another climbing sequence, my time with Deliver Us Mars was over. And other than those techy imperfections, it’s looking good! It’s clearly a lot more expansive the Deliver Us The Moon, both conceptually and in a literal size sense, and the addition of some engaging, challenging platforming seems like a smart way of adding some excitement without lurching into outright action. I can’t say if the full story will land, but I did enjoy the naturalistic delivery of Poldark’s Ellise Chappell as Kathy.
Assuming no further delays, and you aren’t sick of the sight of space by that point, you can play Deliver Us Mars for yourself in February.
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