Hands-On With Waking Mars

Unique premise? Check. Cool cast? Check. Jetpack? Check! If you’ve been an iOS gamer since before iOS gaming was cool, you’ll no doubt remember Tiger Style’s Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor as one of the early hits on this platform. The Tiger Style Games team has been doing anything but resting on their laurels since then, and will be serving up something truly out of this world next week. We’ve spent some quality time with the final build of Waking Mars, and there’s no reason to be shy about how awesome it is. This is what gaming bliss is made of, folks!

Waking Mars centers on the exploits of Liang, an astronaut charged with retrieving an advanced rover that’s vanished deep within the Red Planet’s subterranean bowels. It would be a lonely journey if not for Liang’s earthbound supervisor and a snarky on-board computer. Together they reach a most unusual conclusion: the mission’s success depends on Liang becoming an extraterrestrial gardener! You see, sheets of slimy Martian cellophane stretch over cavern entrances, and the only thing they respond to is the growth of plantlike life forms that have mysteriously begun springing up in the humid confines of Mars.

We spent the game’s introduction in a race to capture seeds and then lob them, grenade-style, at patches of fertile soil. Different seeds produce different flora, so you can create a fully self-replicating ecosystem out of these creatures to give Liang a helping hand in opening new pathways.

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t sound all that thrilling in writing — maybe you were hoping Liang would have packed a laser and started blasting everything to bits. Liang does have at least one very cool ace up his sleeve, however. There’s no way he’d be able to scale some of these vertical chutes with just his hands and feet, so expect to get plenty of use out of his jet pack! There’s also a magnificent sense of wonder in discovering all the bizarre creatures the game serves up, the kind I honestly haven’t felt since Super Metroid (you knew we’d name-drop it sooner or later, didn’t you?). But if you need blood-pumping action beyond playing space football with Martian fauna, rest assured exciting times await. Right now we’re rocketing through an area that’s literally being re-carved in real time by mosses spouting sulfuric acid. Will Liang make it through with his life bar intact, or will he get crushed by falling rocks or skeletonized in one of these acid pools? Find out on March 1, when we’ll have a full review to celebrate the game’s release!

That’s a release date you’ll definitely want to mark on your calendars. To find out more about the project and watch for late-breaking announcements, check out Tiger Style’s blog and Twitter feed. We’ll leave you with some gameplay footage from an earlier development build. It does a great job of showing off the gist of Waking Mars’ gameplay, but the graphics are much more lush these days. Just wait until you see the final product in motion!