March 30th, 2012 | By Emerson Smith
Tiger Style Games’ Waking Mars is a triumph for iOS gaming. With a streamlined touch based control system, puzzle based progression, and open world environments, there is enough in this package to appeal to hardcore and casual gamers alike. You are Liang, a scientist that soon becomes trapped deep within the caves of Mars. If you are to escape, you must observe and understand the way the unique ecosystem thrives, deep beneath the surface. The story maintains a classic, spacey vibe while varying the gameplay quite a bit. To progress through the underground of Mars, you have to raise the biomass of the location you are in to open the cerebrane blocking your progress into the next area.
In other words, each plant and creature that inhabits Mars each contribute a certain amount of biomass to their surroundings. In order of open the tissue blocking the next area you will explore, that biomass has to be raised. You can discover how to achieve the highest biomass by playing with the wild life. Planting certain creatures will add a certain amount of biomass. Sometimes, planting another seed in a certain plant could cause them to produce additional seeds, or transform them in some way. Experimentation is key, and Waking Mars introduces new creatures and plants through the whole experience. There is always something new to learn or discover. When you learn about new creatures or discover something new about them, your research log is updated. Here you can review what you already know, and possibly find a hint at something you missed.
There is also a tweet function for every note in the research log, so you can share with your followers the “research” you have gathered, and the new creatures you are learning about. The controls are incredibly simple: Liang will walk or fly to wherever your finger is touching the screen. To throw a seed, you tap the bottom right corner, select a seed, and tap where you want it thrown. It is that simple. This leaves the player with the task of exploring and surviving in the harsh environment. Your objective can change in an instant: a simple room where you are raising biomass in order to continue on to the next area can suddenly become a death trap, and you have to guide Liang to safety before planning your next course of action.
It is exactly this fresh, dynamic gameplay working with the desire to explore this living world that keeps players engaged. And to make a world seem alive, you need visuals to reflect that. You have looked at the screen shots I have posted throughout the review, so you can see the color palette and detail. The animations add another layer to the realism. Long necked fauna twist and spit seeds at random, creepy creatures crawl along the wall and scuttle onto the ceiling, acid drips and burns its way through the environment, and Liang wanders through, searching for a way out. The sound contributes just as much to the atmosphere. Acid drips echo throughout the cavern, the scuttling of the inhabitants rake along the walls, and the fauna crackle as they grow. This fictional Mars is not simply well realized, it is alive. Tiger Style Games has brought an incredible, single-player experience the the iOS. Waking Mars is a title deserving of your attention, and your time. Mars is waiting. Awaken the depths.