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39 Days To Mars

Posted by GG Goblin On April - 30 - 2018

A puzzling trip for two to the red planet.

 
It’s Anecdotal’s 39 Days to Mars is a co-op puzzle adventure in which a pair of very British Victorian inventors decide that it would be a good idea to travel to Mars in an optimistic, ramshackle steam powered rocket ship. Am I the only person who thinks that a game designed to be played by two players, but is developed by a one-person indie development studio is impressive?

 
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The story revolves around a pair of British inventors, Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter, along with their cat, and their preparations and then journey to Mars in the HMS Fearful. With a name like that, you can imagine that the voyage will be anything but smooth. Still, any problem can be overcome after a cup of tea.

 
There is something quite homely about the art style used in 39 Days to Mars. Much like sitting down and having a cup of Tea, which is a thing in the game, 39 Days to Mars has a welcoming aesthetic which is mostly made up of line drawn pictures on a sepia background. The characters stand out against the detailed environments that consist of all the bits and pieces that you would expect to find around a Victorian inventor – cogs, pistons, wheels and plenty of teapots – you get the idea. There is a lot to look at in the game, and it all fits in with the Victorian Steampunk setting.

 
But it is also very silly. The humour in the game comes through in both the visuals and the script. It is very British, which fits with our heroes, and very clever. Little comments as the players progress in the game often raise a chortle, while things depicted on the screen can force a grin from the most stiff upper lip. Not everyone will get the humour, especially the farther afield you go, but personally I found it as delightful and charming as the visuals of the game.

 
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A lot of the gameplay fun will come from having to interact with the other player. This is a game designed for two players, and having to communicate with your co-inventor while preparing for the voyage, or once the ship actually heads into space, really is a lot of the fun. The puzzles are mostly simple, with many involving each player controlling a hand and having to work together to make something happen. For a lot of the puzzles, more time is spent trying to work out what to do than actually doing it, as the game can be a little vague with direction. There are some more traditional puzzles in there, which also work well, but the most fun is to be had when the two players have to work together in a dexterous manner.

 
It is possible to play the game in solo mode, in which case a cat takes on the role of the second player. When it comes to the puzzles though, the player will have to control both parts at the same time, which is an exercise in frustration. I am sure there are gamers out there who can handle this level of ambidexterity, but I am not one of them. It is recommended in co-op that each player uses their own controller, but there are plenty of control options with controllers, keyboards and mice. Whichever control method is used, there seem to be times when the controls just don’t work as they are supposed to, but these were not problems I came across too often, and the overall charm of the game washed away any annoyance.

 
Which is why it was such a shame when the game was over. 39 Days to Mars is a very short game, possibly only lasting an hour or two on the first playthrough. There are Steam achievements to collect from multiple playthroughs, but as the puzzles remain the same, the play time will be reduced to less than an hour and feels somewhat pointless. The game leaves the player wanting more from the adventures of Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter, but also feeling disappointed that this adventure is over so quick.

 
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39 Days to Mars is a great achievement for a solo developer. It is packed with charm and humour, and is a blast to play with a friend. The real let down is the length of the game, and the limited replayability. That being said, the game works really well as a party game of sorts, so if you have a wide circle of friends that would fancy a trip to the red planet, 39 Days to Mars may well be the co-op puzzle adventure for you.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 



 

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