Deliver Us Mars PS5 Review – Just about three years ago, brothers Koen Deetman and Paul Deetman released their first game, Deliver Us The Moon. As our review implies, this was definitely a passion project for the two brothers.
This year, they released a follow-up game, Deliver Us Mars, hoping to channel that same veneer their first project came with. While a great deal of that heart still shows itself, the greater package lacks the same kind of potency.
Deliver Us Mars PS5 Review – Absolutely Stellar Story Tarnished By Clunky Gameplay
A Promising Start
Deliver Us Mars puts you in the shoes of Kathy Johansen, a young and budding astronomer and cadet in Earth’s limited space program. Coincidentally, you also happen to be the daughter of the one scientist who caused the great blackout that set in motion the events of Deliver Us The Moon.
Devoted to getting to Mars, Kathy sneaks her way onto the transport team gearing for a last-ditch-effort trip to Mars to recover some heady technology that has the potential to rebuild Earth’s atmosphere and save our Big, Blue Marble.
As PSU’s original reviewer of Deliver Us The Moon, I benefited from having experienced the past events that constantly get referenced in Deliver Us Mars. At the same time, the game does a fantastic job of sprinkling the details and circumstances into the narrative without forcing drastic asides or delays in your progression. All in all, Deliver Us The Moon isn’t completely required to play before Mars, but I cannot help but recommend experiencing Moon first.
One cool thing was at the beginning of the game, where Kathy passes through an exhibit that details the events of Deliver Us The Moon and lead-in to those events. You can simply run through this exhibit if you wish and still see what you need in order to understand the circumstances. At the same time, you get to see a little more of the astronaut that was Kathy’s father.
Building To The End
On that note, the game places a heavy hand on the relationship with Kathy’s father. This ultimately establishes an anchor of pride that Kathy has in her father, even though he caused the planet’s sloping downfall.
I say heavy handed in the sense that the game initially uses repeated sentimentality phrases during flashbacks to try and establish the emotional ties between father and daughter. These efforts don’t fall flat, but they do place a heavy dose of corniness at the beginning of the game.
Couple this with how socially awkward Kathy is, and the introduction hour before going to space feels weird. Ultimately, this benefits Kathy’s character development and eventually feels endearing, but the beginning of the game itself definitely could have used some ironing out to bring you on board a bit easier.
Some Welcome Variety
Much like its predecessor, Deliver Us Mars provides several variations in gameplay. Most of the time, you see Kathy running from place to place, solving the occasional one-off puzzle to progress. Sprinkled in, however, are different ways to interact with the world around you.
For instance, you come across hologram logs of past events, and you use your flying robot companion, AYLA, to decipher it. You do this by taking control of AYLA and flying around the room to find the correct angle for the locks on the hologram to sit in place.
Another way is utilizing wireless energy transmitters, or Microwave Power Transmitters (MPTs), to unlock doors. In these situations, you often need to use AYLA to pass through vents in order to unlock doors. These add simplistic variety that keeps the experience feeling fresh but not bog down the pace too much.
However, I experienced several glitches when using the MPTs that kept me from letting go of them. When I pick up an active microwave signal splitter, I cannot put it on the ground. It took me several checkpoint restarts to learn that the transmitter itself needs to be turned off before moving the splitter.
In the same vein, there are some parts where you have to climb walls and rock faces. You do this by using two rock climbing axes. The controls for wall climbing are slow and clunky. Set an axe with R2, angle the next axe with the joystick, set the other axe with L2 before moving the first axe. If you don’t wait long enough with the setting of one axe before lifting the other, then you just fall.
Then, in the final sequence, the game asks you to perform more challenging platforming and wall climbing than the mechanics adequately cater to. The one I want to specifically reference sees you sprinting and jumping for a small hook point that requires absolutely perfect timing and execution. Ten tries later, and I managed to glitch it well enough so that it registered that I hooked a part of the wall that normally cannot be hooked.
Overall, the real shame is that there are some absolutely touching and well-shot scenes that offer subtle emotional ties between Kathy and her father. As Kathy navigates Mars, she comes across holograms that give her glimpses into what her father went through alongside the downfall of the Mars populace.
The strength of the narrative truly shines when the game keeps its cumbersome gameplay mechanics out of the way. With that in mind, the ending that Deliver Us Mars throws at you absolutely delivers on all counts some heavy scenarios and fantastic buildup that reward the effort to get there. Unfortunately, enough sections of the game force you to muddle around with these mechanics that the frustration grows significantly harder to set aside.
What truly stands out as odd-looking are the characters themselves. Facial models appear more hand-sculpted rather than referenced. To make things worse, the parts of the face that move (albeit very little movement) lack very little anchoring to the face. This makes hair look like it’s just glued on in patches and eyes attached like Mr. Potato Head.
When in their suits, they look much better simply because most of their hair and heads hide behind their helmets. Even when out of cutscenes, their facial expressions are fixed and look far more refined. In cutscenes, though, character faces just look off, especially in direct sunlight. To boot, everyone looks incredibly stiff, kind of like a malleable reference model that an artist uses.
Pop-in glitches also happen occasionally, usually when going around corners, but this mostly appears indoors.
In stark contrast, the landscapes and settings all look astounding and heavily detailed. While you don’t leave defined footprints in sand, the dust blows beautifully and tarnished metal looks authentic. The venues themselves allow your eyes to feast on gorgeous backdrops and detailed settings. This is one of the several strengths of this game, but it unfortunately sits behind stubborn gameplay.
Deliver Us Mars Gets There Eventually
While the path to get there shows plenty of rough patches, Deliver Us Mars sticks the landing so decadently, making the trip worth the while. The introduction will likely deter players with its socially awkward characters trying to get their bearings in the story, the visual issues often break the immersion the game tries to create, and the puzzle-related oddities delay progress.
Still, you hit a point where all of those frustrations begin to matter less than learning what hides behind the next door or puzzle. It’s just unfortunate that that point doesn’t present itself sooner. It’s equally unfortunate that the game often can’t get out of its own way.
Deliver Us Mars attempts to follow up on the success of its predecessor but falls far short on a technical level. Glitches, hiccups, and gameplay failings bring down the experience too far for most players to forgive. Still, the narrative is downright compelling.
The Deetman brothers more than deserve a much bigger budget to make the games they want to make. Someone, please invest in them and give them a true opportunity to take the industry by storm.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.
Deliver Us Mars is out for PS4 & PS5 today.