Mines of Mars Review (iOS)
Metroid, Castlevania and The Swapper are some of the classics that heavily inspire WickyWare's flagship iOS title, Mines of Mars. Fortunately, Mines of Mars efficiently caters to these inspirations while efficiently building on its own mythos and unique style of gameplay. Killing wildlife, mining, exploring, smelting, collecting and upgrading are core fundamentals of Mines of Mars. While this much variety in its gameplay would be enough to satiate our expectations for this iOS title, we were glad to see that that its proper, effective use of atmosphere also helped build Mines of Mars to be an even better title than we were anticipating.
To no surprise, you play as a miner who was sent to the fourth rock from the sun in order to efficiently mine it, which takes up a significant part of Mines of Mars' core gameplay. Like its overarching story, Mines of Mars' gameplay expands from being just a bland "go to Mars and start digging in dirt" mission into something much more substantial and grander in scale.
The narrative of Mines of Mars utilizes solid, creative writing to help the transition from its open-ended gameplay into a gripping story that is unfolded through the completion of quests and missions. While these missions help adhere to the idea that iOS titles were intended to be played episodically in short intervals rather than in massive marathons, the expansive underground ruins of Mars helps eliminate this feeling of rushed/episodic gameplay.
What originally starts off as a standard mining operation radically changes to something of a massive, 'Total Recall' level of Martian lore. Mines of Mars has your miner arrive at an area of Mars that he originally did not intend on visiting. You start off in an old, abandoned mining town that only has a lone, robot caretaker left to tend for the city. After going below the surface of the town, you realize that the mining town unearthed something much bigger than minerals or jewels. Be prepared to encounter an ancient civilization of Mars and the dangerous indigenous wildlife that claimed the lives of most of the town's miners.
The graphics of Mines of Mars promote an excellent degree of depth, massiveness and atmosphere that are reminiscent of The Swapper. Despite its very slow start, Mines of Mars captivates through its excellent use of environmental backgrounds in order to correlate just how massive this underground world really is. Just about twenty minutes into my mining adventure, I felt a sense of being lost in this underground labyrinth (the addition of a map would be nice) alongside a sense of claustrophobia in terms of how cramped my character was underground, forcing me to dig me way out. Hours later, I was unearthing ancient Martian structures that were some of the primary reasons why the mining town where I started my adventure was so derelict.
Much like its graphics, the gameplay of Mines of Mars starts off simple but continues building and escalating into something much more elaborate and enjoyable. My first few ventures underground were limited due to my beginner's pickaxe and my helmet's field of view (which cause most of the underground area to be dark unless it was right in front of me). After upgrading my axe, helm, jet pack and the rest of my gear with the minerals I found, I was able to explore the Martian labyrinths much more efficiently. This is where the Metroid/Castlevania aspects of Mines of Mars would come into play.
I found myself backtracking to areas I couldn't mine or survive before with my new gear, helping me progress through the game's quests through previous dead ends. Once I was into the swing of things, WickyWare maintained a constant flow of exploration (and backtracking), puzzle solving, combat and mining that kept me thoroughly engaged until I was absolutely overabundant with materials and found myself playing through the story just to see its excellent conclusion. One critique would be that I hit this threshold far too early in the game -- where my last hours were spent going in a straight line to Mines of Mars' ending without any other needs to tool my character further. While this certainly does not take away from the gameplay, it would have been nice if Mines of Mars added in a higher tier of equipment or perhaps a higher difficulty to keep mining-grinders more occupied in the end.
Ultimately, Mines of Mars provides an experience that expands well beyond the average iOS title that is almost on par with the higher end of indie, PC gaming quality. Capturing both the essence of Alucard and Samus is something that is very difficult to do, but Mines of Mars efficiently does so even on the constrictive iOS format. Unfortunately, just a few shortcomings in terms of inspiring you to keep digging and refining your gear results in you maxing out your character far too early in the game, making the final sequences far too easy and short when compared to the other areas of the game. Nevertheless, no matter how much Mines of Mars forced me to dig, this iOS title rose to the occasion.
This review was completed using a purchased download of Mines of Mars for iOS.