Jupiter & Mars Review (PS4) – Ecco would be proud

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Jupiter & Mars from Tigertron is a catchy game, one that adds depth, wonderment, and adventure in a harrowing tale in a world that humans have left behind. Through environmental destruction and damage, they left behind, it’s up to Jupiter and Mars to right mankind’s wrongdoings, but is the adventure worth it?


Pros:
+Extremely beautiful audiovisual designs
+Puzzles are challenging and fun
+Each zone feels entirely unique
+VR only seems to add more depth and responsiveness to Jupiter & Mars

Cons:
-The story felt as if it was one and done
-Navigation and understanding where to go can be difficult


Somewhere, somehow, my original review for Jupiter & Mars had gotten lost in some weirdness I can’t explain. It was a blessing in disguise, which honestly, forced me to go back and replay a title I’d not thought I’d return to.

Oddly enough, I ended up doing so, but not just out of sheer misfortune for myself and our team here at Blast Away the Game Review. I was able to go back and really dig deep into why I like games like this, one that made me love titles like Ecco the Dolphin during the course of my childhood and even now as an adult.

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Jupiter & Mars is an eye-opening experience in both VR and non-VR formats

When I decided to revisit Jupiter & Mars, mostly due to our initial review having vanished from our database, I was wondering what it would be like to visit the game with a dedicated VR experience. So on the VR headset went, wetsuit prepped, and off into the waters I went taking the role of Mars’ partner Jupiter. Together, these two form a beautiful duo, one that dances and skates through a post-human Earth.

Their mission isn’t small though, they’re tasked with restoring the natural order of the ocean back to its rightful place, solving problems caused by humankind before they left the world, leaving ocean life to fend for itself. As part of the story, you (Jupiter) and your pal Mars are tasked with one simple task from The Elder Whales: destroy a network of machines that mankind left when they left the planet and make it so that they aren’t troubling nautical nature ever again.

Easy, right? No, not really. Even in VR, exploration is a blast, but a bit daunting at times. Getting lost is commonplace, forcing you to use your echolocation to your advantage in order to find out where to go, and then using your ability to echo to disrupt jellyfish and other threats about you.

The overall design was made with Jupiter & Mars in the mindset of a VR title, which is when the game really begins to come to life, bringing its sometimes bioluminescent settings to life. Settings including zones that feature Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty into view really begin to set in once you realize what has happened and why. In VR, it’s breathtaking, and honestly, a bit unsettling.

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The gameplay could use one minor improvement to help players know where to go

One of the key issues with Jupiter & Mars isn’t exactly its fault, but seemingly, a minor oversight that has occurred. When navigating the Ocean’s depths, it can be a bit difficult to decipher where you need to go, forcing you to roam about like a lost puppy for a few minutes before finding the right direction.

Sometimes it includes things as small as finding lost baby sea turtles, maybe a few crabs that lost their way, or even setting a few stingrays free from their confines. Most of the time, however, you’re spent exploring the open levels, pinging objects for Mars to barge through with a powerful nose attack.

You’ll find that Mars does this to free sea life, find a few hidden secrets, or destroy debris left behind by mankind itself. Regardless of if you play in VR or not, you’ll find that every environment you explore is quite spacious, leaving you plenty to explore, but at a cost. That cost, you may not see right away, but it’s the fragile emphasis upon just how empty the Ocean actually is after mankind damaged it upon repair.

You won’t see an abundance of crabs, lobster, or various other ecosystems being strewn about on the Oceans floor. You won’t even see tons of fish, which in truth, is heartwrenching to see become a plausible reality in our world today. Just don’t expect a lot of threats. Well, there are some, but they’re few and far between. You’ll often find yourself trying to smack them away before going about your business.

The only downside is you’ll still get lost and it’ll sometimes be a bit difficult to figure out where you need to go. Do you go to the Ocean floor down that narrow path ahead or do you meander on ahead by where you just saved those manta rays? Well, that’s up to you to figure out.

It’s a slow-burner, but with a few collectibles under your belt, a VR headset over your yees, you won’t feel all that slow, even though it can feel like a bit of a slog through some of the bigger areas.

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Navigating in Jupiter & Mars in VR is actually quite fun

One of the things I can’t help but appreciate is how the game actually feels. Design-wise, it’s marvelous, and it allows for players to enjoy the game how they want to with the VR headset on. So let’s talk about this a bit.

In order to ensure that your experience as smooth as possible, don’t be surprised that graphics did take a rather noticeable hit in order to ensure you get the most out of your experience. Except controls didn’t. There are three modes you can choose from which include incremental, smooth, or head tilt.

This means you can tilt your head to one side to begin moving that direction, smooth which just follows your movements of course, or incremental, which honestly, helped a lot more by snapping some to the direction I wanted to go in later stages. Regardless, find what works best for you.

It’s not really a used design for VR I’d seen before and having played only a handful of VR titles, it was nice to see, and I can’t really say I have really seen any developers opt for this design in their titles yet. It’s a nice and very welcomed change, to say the least.

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Jupiter & Mars’ audiovisual designs are superb

One of the key things I can’t get out of my head is how subtle Jupiter & Mars actually is. It’s beautiful having used a soft blend of cel-shading alongside various other design elements that work really well with the games overall graphical design. Each zone is overly detailed, each one hinting at the events that have unfolded before and after humans had left the Earth.

Subtle things such as sunken ships, fallen towers, skyscrapers underwater, and well, Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty both play a major role in what has unfolded within the world that has been so carefully designed by Tigertron’s team. Even the music, the soft chimes of nearby animals, the sound of the nearby sea and ocean life is beautiful, it’s charming, but don’t get me wrong: the real push for post-human Earth is alarming.

It’s eerie, it’s dark, and it’s a world that isn’t teeming with life as it would have been had climate changes and global warming not affected the world within Jupiter & Mars. It’s eerily designed, but an eye-opening design at that. I just wish we could have seen the full extent of the two dolphins and their efforts come forth and show us just how much they might have changed the ocean throughout our adventures.

Sadly, the music isn’t near as dramatic as Ecco the Dolphin or any of its siblings, but that’s okay, it does its purpose and doesn’t break the immersion.

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Swimming away into the conclusion

When I think of Jupiter & Mars, it’s hard for me not to draw parallels between it and Ecco the Dolphin. Both games take a unique species of mammal, make them a centerpiece to their game, alongside an important message for people to absorb. The only thing I wish I could have seen more of was simply the story.

I would have loved to have known about what kind of reactions the ocean had to the actions of Jupiter and Mars, what kind of life the Ocean saw a return to it, and even given us an idea of what the future for them looked like in the long run. However, it delivers, and it delivers a reasonably fun experience, albeit a short-lived one for those that take the direct approach to the actual story.

Jupiter & Mars
Platforms: 
PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Version Reviewed: 
PlayStation 4
Developer: 
Tantalus, Wicked Witch
Publisher: 
Tigertron, Inc.
Release Date: 
Available Now
Cost:
 $24.99

Besides the small issue with navigation, Jupiter & Mars is a daring tale, one that takes real-world issues and uses them to help bring a game to life and raise awareness about mankinds affects on not just the surface, but below the surface in the Oceans depths as well.


Our review is based upon a retail version that the publisher provided us with for the review of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.


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About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

 

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