Deliver Us Mars Review – Nah, We’re Good

My father had a friend who worked for an old-school book publishing agency specialized in esothery and all sorts of new age faux-scientific hogwash. As an assistant editor, he was tasked primarily with filtering submissions. Back in the mid-nineties, aspiring authors brought their bestsellers-to-be in huge yellow office envelopes. His desk was creaking under the weight of manuscript bundles brought by the people yet to be introduced to the wonders of the floppy disk and Microsoft Word. Did he read all of it? Of course not. He developed a screening system based on the thirty minutes rule. If the author failed to “grip him by the balls“ (his words) in the first chapter, his manuscript was neatly set aside and forgotten.

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Several short decades later, the self-publishing industry is booming. Internet, the great liberator, made editorial filtering and oversight obsolete. In the last decade or so, crowdfunding made budgets a thing of the past too. Every damned fool under the sun, with a good enough pitch, can siphon funds and self-publish anything and everything. You might protest that gaming “benefited” from that rule, which is true to a very small extent. For one true kickstarted gem such as FTL, there are literary ten thousand hopeless turds.

Pepperidge Farm Remembers

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In the old, Pepperidge farm days, products as amateurish, awkward, and frankly laughable as Deliver Us Mars would never have been published. Every sensible corporate decider or publishing executive would file it under the “pretentious cringe” folder and send a letter to the author starting with the word “regrettably”. This work of interactive fiction dabbles in extremely serious matters, spiking the environmental apocalypse with human drama. It goes full throttle with in-engine cinematics, dramatic flashbacks, and omnipresent dooming. In doing so, it fails in basic stuff that students learn during the first year of the film academy. Unless you are Quentin Tarantino, you can’t realistically expect to excel in making movies without formal education.

Deliver us Mars is an interactive movie/walking simulator enhanced with a dozen puzzles and some platforming action. It’s a spiritual successor to Deliver Us the Moon from the same developer. The sensible environmental message is struggling under a mountain of bad acting, bad camera angles, and inadequate technology. This last bit is quite problematic because its inadequacy permeates every scene aimed to induce strong emotions. Berating a small indie studio for not using motion capture tech in directing cinematics with a heavy emphasis on body language is not a cheap shot, but a reminder of the folly of overextension. Why attempt something without resources and know-how? Why insist on full-body motion acting when the best thing you can pull off is a wooden animation in 3D Studio MAX?

Defying Gravity

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Deliver us Mars tries to tell the story of young Kathy Johannson, whose father stole the future. Once a brilliant scientist and a member of the Lunar Council, he and his elitist friends boarded the Ark ships that were supposed to fix Earth’s raging climate and disappeared. Some years later, Kathy and her astronaut friends get the garbled message from Mars. Old Isaac and the New Age gang are apparently living the Musk dream on the red planet. Using the last available rocket ship, the intrepid youngsters set thrusters to Mars. Their objective is to get the Arks back and reboot the failing ecosystem of Earth.

That setup could work in theory, but the game suffers from problems similar to Defying Gravity. Maybe you remember that sci-fi TV show from 2009 that got canceled in the middle of its first season? The shared premise that doesn’t work is that fools, unstable people, and energy vampires aren’t fit to be astronauts. The merry gang on their way to Mars is a bunch of awkward, sensitive teenagers no one in their right mind would consider saviors of Humanity. So, the entire idea tanks before the liftoff, and it gets even worse after their goals begin to diverge mid-mission.

Beaming, Decrypting, and Climbing

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Apart from lengthy cutscenes brimming with cringe, Deliver us Mars also offers a bunch of puzzles. Only one kind of those is actually fun, but its banality in the broader context of the game is still perplexing. I’m talking about unlocking stuff by aiming and splitting the energy beams. It reminded me of Portal games, where it made sense as a part of an experimental course designed by mad AI. Why on Earth (or Mars) would anyone implement such a system as a structural backbone of a struggling colony? To complicate everyone’s lives even more?

The second kind of puzzle is not really a puzzle at all, but a simple exercise in futility. Decrypting holograms by manoeuvering a drone camera in each of the three axes is truly pointless. It involves zero thinking or experimentation, it’s just there to waste your time and make you work for another cutscene. If devs were trying to mildly piss people off, they could have used QTE.

Finally, there’s a climbing and platforming bit. Climbing is moderately interesting as it uses a two-hands mechanic to move Kathy across vertical surfaces, forcing you to be creative in choosing the path. It’s nothing special, it’s just there to more intimately engage you in Kathy’s struggle. Later in the game, there are a couple of tricky jumping/climbing sections that offer a small bit of challenge.

Bugs, Features, and Bugged Features

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Deliver us Mars is also full of really interesting bugs and gameplay elements bordering on bugs. In one of the beam puzzles actually is possible to lock yourself out of further progress! If you use a bad sequence and end up on the wrong side of one specific door, it will slam shut and you’ll lose the ability to use the beam emitter.

Features that feel like bugs but aren’t are numerous, but the one that incensed me the most is related to wall jumping. At one point, I was required to jump across a chasm from one wall to another. To do that, you are required to press a specific sequence of keys (down + jump and release both hands) which the game never communicated to you. Others had the same problem. This streamer had to consult the review guide to determine what he was supposed to do. What about the players without an official doc, what should they do?

I could go on, but you got the message by now. Deliver us Mars is a really horrible, amateurish mess that has no place in your library. Avoid it like actual Mars.



  • Some charming martian vistas.


  • Bad acting, even worse storytelling, and horrid animation.
  • Decryption “puzzles” are a pointless hassle.
  • Game-breaking bugs and features that look like bugs.
Review platform: PC
Developed by: KeokeN Interactive
Published by: Frontier Foundry
(read our Review Policy for clarification)


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