It’s been a while since I’ve played a game with a message. The last one was Anamorphine which came out last year as an abstract look at depression and how it affects you and ones you love. This year, though, developer Tigertron aims to take a look at how humans affect the world we live in, with an eco-conscious message in Jupiter & Mars.
I actually really like games that have something to say. It forces me to look at something at a viewpoint other than my own, and helps give me perspective. While I don’t know exactly what the future holds, I do believe that planet Earth has finite resources, and we won’t be here forever. So what happens when humans aren’t here to use resources and sully our planet?
Jupiter & Mars seems to think that nature will have taken back over. Humans are gone, and most of the planet is submerged underwater. Bits of technology litter the world, and things aren’t perfect for marine life. The Elder Whales give our protagonists, Jupiter and Mars, the task of taking down some of these machines to assist the creatures that live in the (now) larger oceans.
Climate change is the cause of all this, and Jupiter & Mars doesn’t try to preach at players, instead trying to get players to think about the root of the problem. Our political environment is particularly volatile as of late, and while I don’t think global warming is necessarily the right way to describe it, climate change is real, and we need to really think about what we can do to protect our planet.
Jupiter & Mars is a particularly beautiful neon-filled trek underwater. Players take control primarily of Jupiter as he navigates tight corridors and swims past other creatures. Mars is the one that players will direct to open up new pathways or smash objects to find collectibles though. So even though you’re controlling one for navigation, the other one interacts with the world.
It can also be played in both PlayStation VR and normal modes. I spent most of my time outside of VR, because I can’t always have my headset hooked up, but I did put a couple hours in on my headset. Obviously, the VR mode is more immersive. Some areas are filled with life, while others have a sense of emptiness. Movement is probably the trickiest thing of the VR portion, as even with a controller it can get a little finicky.
It generally worked fine, but missing a slight movement in both VR and while using a controller can get frustrating. This works even worse in VR, just because of how disorienting actually using the headset can sometimes be.
Echolocation is the ability that players will be using the most. Players must use this in order to track down breakable objects for progression, or to find breakable items for collectibles. Most of these are pretty easy to find with some basic exploration complemented by the echolocation feature though, which also helps highlight the path to your next objective.
There are some seriously wonderful moments though, like swimming past large whales, or going through iconic world landmarks. These provide a brief respite from the message of Jupiter & Mars, even with the underlying message lingering on the mind.
Enemy encounters are pretty basic, with a lot of them repeating throughout the course of the game. They aren’t the focus here, but it seemed like first time developer Tigertron noticed the need for a more imminent threat in the game, not just for our world. New abilities are unlocked throughout the course of the game. Some give Jupiter and Mars the ability to swim deeper in the ocean, while others let you unlock new pathways. There’s a bit of a metroidvania vibe as some of these abilities unlock new areas earlier in the game. Unless you’re a completionist though, you probably won’t want to go back.
At some point, I’ll probably go back and play through it again entirely in VR, because it’s pretty apparent that’s the way it was meant to be played. It definitely doesn’t look as pretty on the PSVR, but nothing does at 1080p up close like that.
The experience here feels a lot like Oure did last year, but with a message. The experience is generally pretty calm, and there isn’t a pressing threat throughout. The neon, polygonal world is rather beautiful to explore, but it comes at the cost of thinking about what got the world to the point it’s at. It isn’t bad to use the Earth’s resources, but Jupiter & Mars reminds us that there needs to be a balance of give and take.