Mars Underground is an award winning video game from Independent Developer, Matt Sanderson of Moloch Media. It may be about aliens, conspiracy theories, mental illness or death. Hello, now that I’ve got your attention, please allow me to share my experience of Mars Underground with you.
When I first heard the name, Mars Underground, I thought this game would be a space adventure. However, when I started my game as a minor preparing for their first day at a new school, I wasn’t so sure. The next thing I noticed was the disconnect between what my character, Mars, wanted to say and what he could say. When Mars first interacts with an NPC, a text box appears with his possible responses. A number of phrases are listed but the only one that you can select is ‘…’. That is, silence. This changes on the afternoon of the first day when Mars visits the Psychiatrist, Dr Kronus. The doctor comments on Mars’s silence and gives him some medication which he must take every day. This is what initially made me believe that Mars Underground might be a game about mental illness like An Aspie Life.
Cycle 2 begins with Mars waking up at home and preparing for his first day of school. Again. Mars can now speak, seemingly thanks to the medication. Mars Underground now becomes a text based, choose your own adventure game where the player can choose how to interact with NPCs. The most interesting of which I think are the talking toilets which state that they’re tired of taking people’s crap and that they want to be cleaned.
Mars is free to explore the town at any time of the day or night. What venues are open and who is at these venues will depend on the time of day. If you’re waiting for a venue to be open at a certain time, you can visit other locations in the meantime or you can sit on a bench and wait. If you choose to wait on a bench, a text box will appear which allows you to select how long you want to wait. So, let’s say you’re at the cinemas at mid morning and want to watch a movie which is only showing in the evening. You can choose to stay seated until the evening. This speeds up the cycle so you can be in the right place at the right time. This can be a more efficient way to play the game but it also means that you miss out on some interactions.
I recommend starting off by using a full day cycle to visit as many people and places and possible at different times. This will help to unravel the story behind Mars Underground. For example, there is a student called Jimmy Zucchini who you can meet in the school yard in the afternoon. Jimmy is wearing a saucepan on his head which he calls the Helmet of Protection. This is the only time that you can gain the Helmet of Protection which is an item that you will need later.
Don’t worry if you spend the afternoon of your first day exploring somewhere else. This day repeats so you will have plenty of chances to be in the right place at the right time. You also have the chance to interact with Jimmy Zucchini earlier in the day. He tells you that he wears his Helmet of Protection to guard against the aliens which landed in Ptolemy Park last night. The government are trying to keep this a secret but he knows about it. This made me think that Mars Underground is about aliens and conspiracies. It also made me realise that I should find a way to get to Ptolemy Park as this might help unravel the story.
Having finally found the right combination of day and time to reach Ptolemy Park, I was unprepared for what happened next. Seemingly out of nowhere, I was zapped out of existence and the game ended- the credits rolled and everything. Then some shadowy figure told me that I need to find more of these endings in order to complete a secret mission. This is what made me think that the way to end the game way to find as many ways to die as possible. However, given that Mars sees a Psychiatrist who gives him medication, maybe it is about mental illness after all. But that doesn’t explain Jimmy Zucchini and his Helmet of Protection. Jimmy could be paranoid but as they saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
You can purchase Mars Underground via STEAM or download the HTML5 browser version. You can even purchase the soundtrack for a more immersive experience in your everyday life. For more information about this title, visit the Moloch Media website.