A space-based adventure doesn’t have to be filled with horror to keep you on the edge of your seat, and Deliver Us Mars proves that with gusto.
Following on from 2019’s Deliver Us The Moon, Deliver Us Mars once again takes us to the far reaches of space. The goal this time? You guessed it: Mars. And once again, you’re on the trail of a mission gone awry, with your own mission being to uncover what happened. Cue empty space stations dripping with atmosphere and cryptic recordings for you to piece together a series of events.
You’ll get more out of Deliver Us Mars if you have a good memory of Deliver Us The Moon. The story is a direct continuation, and the characters you meet and play as here are characters who were introduced to you through Deliver Us The Moon‘s many collectible notes and recordings. You could jump in blind: Deliver Us Mars gives just about enough context for this to be a standalone adventure, but you’ll be missing out without the extra depth provided by being familiar with its predecessor.
Deliver Us Mars feels a little more personal than Deliver Us The Moon: you’ll feel a little more connected to your protagonist, Kathy. You’ll know more about her this time – and since her mission isn’t a lone one, you’ll also get to know the three crew members she’s travelling with. It’s a stark contrast to its predecessor, where the vast majority of story came from the environment. You had to work to find it. This time, Deliver Us Mars wants you to be sure you don’t miss anything important.
It’s a bit more ham-fisted than Deliver Us The Moon, then, in that regard. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. The stories of both games fit together like a glove. But it was all too easy to miss an important note or recording the first time around. Here, cutscenes and character dialogue do most of the heavy lifting. Sure, there are still notes and holographic recordings to find which will give you additional information about the time in between both games: Deliver Us Mars takes place some years after, although it’s clear what happened on the moon has left many scars that are yet to be healed for our cast of characters.
Related: Deliver Us The Moon Review (PS5)
There’s a nice mix of gameplay to enjoy in Deliver Us Mars. As Kathy, you’ll typically be exploring on foot, but you will get a few opportunities to drive around in a rover as you travel from one site to another. Kathy’s rather nimble and she’s quick to adapt to her environment: equipped with a pair of pickaxes you might find yourself having to climb up a rockface, for example, or use a makeshift climbing wall to manoeuvre around a locked-down space station. For the most part, it’s fun, and climbing in particular gave us Tomb Raider-in-space vibes. But we had one particular instance where we needed to jump from one wall to another in which the controls fought against us. We failed many times before landing the jump, which felt like a fluke when we did. It’s likely a random bug which will hopefully be ironed out in an upcoming patch.
Despite plenty of action, however, our favourite moments with Deliver Us Mars have been the quieter ones. There’s something delightfully eerie about exploring an abandoned space station, and so making our way through a series of rooms, areas that only hint that people once existed there, has been the highlight of the experience. Mars is bigger than the moon, and so it’s only fitting that this is a bigger game, with more to explore and uncover. Wandering around abandoned living quarters, or coming across a huge space filled with cryochambers, never fails to leave us in awe, and Deliver Us Mars has plenty of those moments.
It also has plenty of puzzles which, at least initially, are great fun to solve, but perhaps outstay their welcome towards the end of the game. There are are few environmental puzzles, where you may have to make use of your accompanying drone to gain access to a locked room, for example. But there are also a lot of puzzles which require you to link up a series of energy beams to activate doors and so forth. They do get more complex as the game wears on, but it’s likely your patience for them will dwindle. More variety would have been nice as they do get a little repetitive.
It’s a small complaint, though, and it’s a fair price to pay for the wonder and intrigue of exploring the world created in Deliver Us Mars. Even though there’s no enemy threat at any point, not knowing what awaits around any corner still keeps you on the edge of your seat. An excellent soundtrack helps with that, too; a beautiful, spine-tingling score that rises at just the right moments to enhance the thrill.
There are still a few instances you can die, even without enemies to face off against, though: falling remains your greatest threat, particularly while climbing. And there are numerous moments where you’ll need to keep an eye on your oxygen levels. It’s not the same in-your-face timer we had in Deliver Us The Moon; instead, there’s a subtle gauge of lights on Kathy’s suit you’ll need to monitor. Get lost exploring outside, or take too long to traverse a particularly tricky rock face, and she’ll meet a suffocating end.
Deliver Us Mars is that rare, beautiful thing: a successful sequel which not only builds on its predecessor but enhances the experience in numerous ways. Sure, more puzzle variety would have been nice. But that’s about the only complaint we can make about this otherwise thrilling, atmospheric deep-space adventure.