I really loved Deliver Us The Moon when it came out back in 2020. KeokeN Interactive’s lunar puzzle adventure balanced interesting gameplay with a compelling and mysterious story that kept you engaged from start to finish. The new generation update that arrived late last year allowed me to rekindle that love too, as well as serving its main purpose which was to build anticipation for the sequel. Now Deliver Us Mars is here, which doesn’t aim to follow on the story directly, but instead recount a new tale of humanity expanding further out into the cosmos. Can it be as fresh and exciting as its predecessor, or does it come across as cold and lifeless as its namesake?
It’s ten years after the Fortuna mission which restored the energy connection between the Earth and the Moon, and things have become mildly better on our home planet. I say mildly because disaster is looming once again and a shot of power from outer space isn’t going to be enough to fix things this time. What humanity needs is to actually evacuate the world before it becomes too inhospitable, though there’s a snag. With dwindling resources and no way of getting more it’s impossible to build the ships needed to take the human race to the stars… that is until a radio signal is picked up from the renegade group Outward who stole 3 ARK ships from the Moon a few years prior. These giant vessels could be the answer to saving our species, and what better way to get them back than send a team out to the red planet to convince the settlers to give them over. Oh, and we’ll throw in one of the leader’s abandoned daughters for good measure, that’ll surely tug on the heart strings. With that mission in mind, a group of 4 astronauts take humanity’s hopes with them on a 144 million km journey so they can Deliver Us Mars.
There’s an interesting use of flashbacks at play in Deliver Us Mars that serve to not only convey backstory to the events you’re investigating as you’re playing as Kathy Johanson, but also teach the basics of the gameplay… for traversal at least. Whether it’s Kathy as a child witnessing her father’s escape from the Moon in the stolen ARK vessels, or remembering diving lessons she had back on Earth, the main action of the game is punctuated by these sojourn’s into Kathy’s past. It’s where everything starts and is used to link this and the previous game together, though you don’t need to have played Deliver Us The Moon to appreciate what’s going on. There’s a significant difference in tone in the sequel, and a much more intimate story being told about father, daughter, betrayal and loss, and bizarrely the fate of humankind sort of takes a backseat. If you were looking forward to grappling with the colossal task of saving the world singlehandedly (again), then you might be a bit let down.
With the increased characterisation comes an almost obvious increase in the number of NPCs, and where the last game had you as an isolated figure in a bleak landscape, Deliver Us Mars puts you in a squad. Thankfully you only have to worry about one person, but expect a fair amount of dialogue between Kathy and the crew as they take off from Earth and head to Mars. As an expert in Microwave Power Technology, you’re along for the ride to manage that aspect – which amounts to little more than cutting open hatches, pointing beams at receptors and pressing connect – and to be the calming influence on dear old dad. The MPT element makes up a type of puzzle encountered throughout and typically means gaining access to new areas or powering up objects, and they mostly never get out of a basic level of complexity. In Deliver Us The Moon one of the most engaging relationships was with the ASE unit found in the labs; essentially a flying robot companion that communicates in beeps and chirps. They’re back again, and everyone gets a personal version, though their primary purpose is unlocking doors by hovering in front of a sensor, and solving 3D space puzzles to decrypt messages. Again, these are not overly complex, which on the one hand makes the story accessible, but on the other is a tad disappointing.
The last piece of the puzzle make up is the traversal side which mainly comes about through climbing. I’m not sure why astronauts are given climbing pick axes for space survival, but it’s a good job Kathy has them so she can scale rock walls and habitat interiors. Each axe is controlled by a shoulder button and needs to be kept pressed in to stay attached to the wall, which means a decent amount of concentration to make sure you don’t accidentally release and fall to your death. It’s a surprisingly good mechanic only let down occasionally by an axe not embedding correctly and causing you to drop. There’s a care and attention you need to take during those sections, and it does add to the tension in the game, which I’d argue is needed as there’s little peril at any other time, even when you’re on the surface of a hostile planet and your oxygen is running out. This swapping between environmental, spatial and cerebral puzzle means Deliver Us Mars doesn’t get stale, though it’s not as challenging as I expected it to be.
Selling the illusion of flying through space and fighting for survival on a barren world isn’t ever going to be an easy one, and for the most part Deliver Us Mars does well. The look and feel is there, and it generates a good atmosphere to draw you in. However, graphically you might wonder exactly what platform you’re playing when it comes to the character models. Keep everyone in helmets and it’s a great looking title; let them take them off and it does manage to jar. I get that where there’s a story about people and emotional connections you need to be able to see their faces, it’s just that they’re relatively featureless and… well… janky. They aren’t terrible, yet by today’s standards they really stand out as maybe needing a little more work. It’s the same with the movement animations where the excuse of lower gravity on Mars doesn’t really cut it. Sadly, engine performance isn’t the best either and there’s close up texture, shadow and even object pop-in which makes you wonder what your expensive piece of high powered tech is struggling with. Audio is pretty great though, as is the voice cast and authenticity they bring.
What I liked most about the first game was the isolation and feeling of being a singular, determined person attempting to achieve the impossible, and the puzzles of course. Where Deliver Us Mars goes is to tell a more meaningful and personal story about reconnecting and realisation, and whilst it achieves that, it loses some of what made me excited for it before release. I can’t help but feel it skimps on the actual puzzle elements too in favour of more cutscenes and exposition. Add on top the performance issues in the PS5 version I played and it leads to a comparatively disappointing experience. That said, I did get hooked into the mystery and wanted to know where it was heading, as well as buying into what felt like a setup for another game, so it’s pulled off that part at least. Plus the zero-g work, that’s sublime if short lived. A fan of the first game? You should get your ass to Mars… just know that it’s a different tone this time, and maybe not as mentally demanding as you’d expect.
A PS5 review copy of Deliver Us Mars was provided by KeokeN Interactive’s PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation, Xbox and PC for around £25, depending on platform.
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