Deliver Us Mars doubles as both a sequel and a standalone story. Following the events from the studio’s earlier game, Deliver Us The Moon, we join new protagonist Kathy as she navigates space and the passing of time. The decade separating the Deliver Us games means you do not need to have played the first, although having done so will aid you with the games mechanics. Whilst solving puzzles to explore the Red Planet is a peaceful experience, the game’s charm is found in the awe-inspiring surroundings, brilliant performances and well-constructed narrative.
KeokeN Interactive’s Deliver Us Mars launched on 2nd February for $29.99 (£24.99) and is available for blast off on PlayStation, Xbox and Steam.
Story – Life on Mars
Deliver Us Mars ditches all attempts at symbolism. People with conflicting views within the game are working towards the same goal; saving a gradually inhabitable Earth. There is no metaphor-riddled monster descending from above, alien creature to run from or ammo to reserve. Instead Deliver Us Mars presents the player with a definitely real reality and no place to hide.
Through a combination of present-day exploration and childhood flashbacks, we learn with Kathy of humankind’s impact on our environment. Underwater settings show masses of junk embedded in the sand and a young Kathy questions why the water is so dirty. Not for the first or last time, her father Isaac (Neil Newbon) tells her that we as a species were responsible.
These revelations tie in with the looming narrative of Deliver Us Mars, as our mission requires us to restore the ARKS on Mars, in hope of them providing relief for Earth’s destruction. Although KeoekN Interactive plays with the tropes of the genre, they avoid cliches through carefully curated character interactions and well-paced twists along the way.
Both the writing and performance of Kathy (voiced by Ellise Chappell) deserve a mention. As she carries out her simple mission of saving humankind, Kathy is faced with family dilemmas rockier than Mars’ terrain. Childhood memories contrasting with those of her sister Claire (Bryony Tebbutt), the more Kathy uncovers about her past the more she has to ponder. Dealing with family turbulence in space would be a difficult task to navigate, and Ellise Chappell does a superb job of presenting this.
Reliving flashbacks in nightmarish scenes, we realise the darker consequences of unconditional love. Our protagonist finds answers to life-long questions and begins to make sense of her unusual childhood. A narrative choice which has stayed with me is allowing Kathy a moment to cry, the display of emotion not taking away from her strength or integrity.
Cheeky inflections and cadences in her voice performance allow Kathy’s character to come to life, and I found myself fully invested in her arc. For the most part, she is able to shrug off the emotional turmoil and focus on her mission. But in moments of isolation, when we are allowed a moment to pause, we see the confusion and hear her inner-desperation for answers.
Gameplay – Engaging
The Deliver Us games have a unique take on the science fiction genre. Gun fights and gore are nonexistent, puzzle based exploration and basic platforming taking their place. Personally, I love this more relaxed atmosphere in space. More relaxed that is, until you are in the co-pilots seat and are in charge of performing the required protocols on the dashboard to prevent catastrophe. (Please excuse any incorrect terminology. I am not an astronaut.)
The gravity-defiant controls are fun but fiddly, as well as slightly dizzying at times. Being able to press L3 to switch between first person and third person view was useful to prevent this, yet that option was inconsistent and I was unsure when it was available. The rock climbing was enjoyable, using L2 and R2 in turn to hook into the wall, though at times jumping between small crevices felt more difficult than necessary.
Although this is a game based on traversing an unknown planet, there is a lack of aircraft controls. After all, this is a linear narrative experience, so it makes sense to have limited the ability to explore among the stars. That being said, the most immersive moments occur in the cockpit. Turning dials, pushing buttons and pulling levers is accompanied by pulse-increasing sound design to create a tension so thick it would need Kathy’s laser to slice through.
The light-beam puzzle system throughout can be confusing. Taking some trial and error to position each beam to the correct receiver, once you are used to the general formula of the puzzle, a new appliance is introduced. Despite the variety of environments, this same puzzle system is used throughout the game, and is the only thing which can become repetitive. A mechanic which entertained me was Kathy’s laser beam cutter, used to slice apart metal to detach debris or open up more light-beam puzzles.
Another aspect of puzzle-solving I enjoyed was that of AYLA’s. Using the personality filled bot to decipher holograms was a nice touch. Though the ASE unit has more uses, these felt like a quick add-on, whereas there was potential to explore the robot’s functions more which remained untouched. It wasn’t until in the later chapters of the game either that I began to use AYLA to gain a birds-eye view on my surroundings.
Graphics – Celestial Beauty
The developers at KeoekN Interactive know their strengths and they play to them. The deeply intriguing narrative flies us through breathtaking skies, the sun peeking out and illuminating outlines of the impressive spacecraft. It then lands us deserted, exploring the dusty vistas of Mars. In some places, the rugged edges of Mars’ crevices are smoothed over by some texture issues and while noticeable, these pop-ins aren’t game-breaking.
Despite these stunning scenes leaving me begging for a photo mode, the team’s weaknesses can be seen in their character models and animation. In their shiny spacesuits, the rigid animations make the cast comparable to plastic action figures at times, and NPCs dotted about at the beginning enforce this with their lifeless faces. Overall though, the performances from the talented cast ensured that the story continued piquing curiosity.
Audio – Imposing and Effective
Seeing as to our knowledge, space is mostly silent, the sound design had a lot of creative freedom. Composer Sander van Zanten utilised this freedom and produced a compelling soundtrack as expansive as the cosmos, consisting of 111 tracks. The rise and falls of the score plays a key role in the pacing of Deliver Us Mars and the enthrallment of being an astronaut is heightened by the oppressive sound design. The experience of Deliver Us Mars is best played wearing a headset, the resulting feeling placing you in an astronaut’s helmet.
Deliver Us Mars was reviewed on PS5 with a key provided by Heaven Media.