Winking Entertainment’s Unearthing Mars for the PS VR is definitely an ambitious sounding title, and while it stumbles a bit in terms of its execution, it’s actually a decent VR experience. It feels more like a game with a narrative than just a tech demo, which is all PS VR owners have really had to play since the headset launched last October.
This is due to its 10 levels, which each feature unique gameplay tasks to fully take advantage of the VR headset. You start on a ship orbiting Mars and must interact with a holographic map, and eventually progresses to exploring mysterious structures on Mars with the PS Move controllers to add a bit of immersion to the gameplay. I have to say I most enjoyed the space moments, especially when you descend to Mars’ surface, as it does give you the feeling of being in a spaceship hovering above the red planet. Other sections of the game have you harvesting ore with a plasma torch, or piloting a ship while it crashes to Mars, as well as driving a rover-like vehicle.
The driving bit is kind of neat if anything else, because it provides a feeling of hovering around Mars while driving a vehicle with the Move controllers. It’s almost like a God Mode effect, as you do feel like you’re in control of the world and can manipulate the vehicle with a flick of your wrists. There’s also a boss battle that turns your Move controllers into a blaster rifle and a shield as you take on massive alien machinations. While this segment is on rails, it still was fun and definitely made me feel like I was the one wielding the weapon with deadly efficiency.
Unearthing Mars, at least to me, offered up decent VR inspired gameplay, and its somewhat trippy narrative does compel you to keep pushing through its one and a half to two hour long campaign. The problem though, is that the game is a bit of a technical mess. Gameplay wise it functions quite well, and all of the VR aspects can be pulled off without a hitch, but in terms of its presentation as a whole, it’s a bit subpar. Characters move robotically and when they talk they resemble the soulless animatronics that used to make up a Chuck E. Cheese stage band. The robotic character models paired with their equally robotic voice over performances, really do come off as archaic in terms of game design. It breaks any sort of immersion when you have to talk to your Captain as she blankly stares at you like a mass murderer and delivers lines like someone who has smoked a pound of weed. The game environments look much better than the characters, and I did feel like I was standing on a new planet, but overall the visuals could have been a bit more polished.
I didn’t experience any motion sickness while playing, which is due to the game not relying on fluid motion. You can only move to certain areas of a level, so rather than feeling like you’re moving in a virtual space, you just teleport to new areas, so there’s no chance of getting motion sickness while playing.
While Unearthing Mars isn’t a must-play PS VR title due to its technical flaws, I still enjoyed my time with it. I appreciated its gameplay model, which provides 10 different VR infused levels to experience, so you don’t feel like its just a big tech demo. The narrative, while very confusing towards the end, does motivate you to push through the crummy character animations and lackluster visuals, so it does offer more meat than most of the released PS VR games. With a bit more polish I really think Unearthing Mars could have been a stellar PS VR exclusive, but due to its poor technical execution in the visuals department, the experience is a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t cost much, so if you’ve been hankering for a reason to use your PS VR you could do worse, but don’t expect a mind blowing experience.
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Review Statement: The author of this review received a code from the publisher for the purposes of this review.