I loved Deliver Us the Moon. I thought it was perfectly paced and filled with engaging set pieces, tons of variety, and an enthralling story. On the contrary, I just like Deliver Us Mars. It very much builds on the plotting of its predecessor, adds new gameplay mechanics, and features a much larger budget. But its pacing can’t match the last game, it has some vexing bugs, and the repetition of the climbing and puzzle sections kept it from fulfilling my expectations. It’s definitely worth playing for fans but it simply isn’t as gratifying an experience.
Deliver Us Mars switches protagonists, which won’t come as a shock since the last game ended with its lead perishing after succeeding in his mission. You play as Kathy Johanson, daughter of Isaac and sister of Claire from Deliver Us the Moon. After Claire rescues Sarah Baker from cryo, she’s able to successfully save Kathy from Isaac in his attempt to load her onto an ark and flee to join the rest of Outward. Now an adult, Kathy joins Claire, Sarah, and Sarah’s husband Ryan on a trek to Mars to find out what happened to Outward and bring the arks to Earth in order to save the planet from its existential crisis.
The story remains engaging, only it’s presented in a different way. The previous game didn’t have the money for character faces and cutscenes, so the story was completely delivered by holograms and audio files. Deliver Us Mars has character models for the entire main cast, plus larger, more-detailed areas to move around in. But there’s a big problem. The character faces look kind of awful. They’re either weird or strangely old-looking and facial animations are less than stellar.
What did you do to your hair?
The hair is the worst, though. When we first meet Kathy as a child, she has a haircut that looks like she did it herself, as it’s horribly uneven and looks terrible. As an adult, Kathy bafflingly has the exact same haircut including a weird, little sideburn that’s attached to nothing. I was shocked nobody attempted to improve this before release. At least the voice acting is as good as it was before. The cast does a great job of bringing these characters to life, even if some of them are fairly unlikable. This is a notably longer game too. Deliver Us the Moon is about five hours long, while Deliver Us Mars is around eight-and-a-half. The story comes together well in the end, but it definitely feels like it meanders compared to the last go around.
Deliver Us Mars has a collection of varying gameplay styles. You walk around and look for things to interact with, sometimes float around or swim in first-person, drive a rover, cut things apart with a laser, climb, platform, and solve a couple of types of puzzles. But while Deliver Us the Moon constantly kept things fresh and successfully made each and every objective feel meaningful, Deliver Us Mars is full of fluff that doesn’t feel anywhere near as vital.
This is simply a slower adventure versus the tight pacing you may be expecting. And there are so many times when you have to stop what you’re doing to slowly use pickaxes to climb some walls or aim a laser to solve a puzzle. These two things are regurgitated time and again. The climbing is fairly clever even if it’s often somewhat dull. You have to slam both pickaxes into a wall to climb it before swapping back and forth between them to slowly make headway. But it can be a little clunky, especially when it comes to jumping backward. The first time the game asked me to do this, I had no idea it was even possible as the game never teaches you about it. I’m not even entirely sure how it works.
Not another laser puzzle
But while the climbing is tolerable and often accompanied by some fairly involved platforming sequences, the puzzle-solving is lackluster. While Deliver Us the Moon never tried to be a Portal-styled puzzler, Deliver Us Mars tries its best to go back to that well time and again. You’ll typically need to cut several locks to release a device that can shoot a laser to power up a generator. But this gets more complicated as the game goes on, requiring you to use splitters and power dampeners to reach multiple generators at once. These puzzles are okay, but they’re not all that fun and there are simply too many of them.
Then there are the hologram puzzles. Deliver Us the Moon had ASE holograms you’d interact with to watch a recording of a scene play out and those return. But now you need to solve one-to-three decryption puzzles to view them. These puzzles are fairly poor, as they only consist of moving your ASE around to try and get three yellow locks to go into a hologram and turn blue. The game doesn’t even remotely attempt to explain how they work and they honestly have no business being in the game at all.
And that’s the biggest problem with Deliver Us Mars. It wants to be a beefier game, but it pads itself out with meaningless filler to do that, which makes it a far cry from the focused experience the first game provided. It’s fine as far as narrative adventure games go, but the first game just felt better to play. There are also a fair amount of bugs that drag things down. I had crashes as well as prompts that occasionally didn’t work, requiring me to quit to the menu. On more than one occasion, I couldn’t even start the decryption puzzles to watch holograms. You can also completely skip the first major climbing section by carefully jumping down a mountain.
It doesn’t help that the game’s characters can be a bit hard to relate to and that the immediate goals just aren’t all that interesting. I had a fairly decent time with the game overall due to the story, but I can’t help but feel disappointed that the sequel to a game I loved so much just didn’t hit the same notes. Fans will find it worth a playthrough but shouldn’t expect the same level of exhilaration and narrative investment that its predecessor provided. It was a good try, but the devs just didn’t deliver us an equal experience this time around. Maybe the third game will get us there.