Hello space cadets! I’m Commander Roy, and I hope you’ll join me this week as we tell gravity to go to hell and fling ourselves, fragile and tiny, into the depths of space. Today we’ll be travelling to Mars to take a look at the newly released Steam Greenlight game Mars Colony: Frontier, whose release date (Sept 25th, 2015) certainly had nothing to do with the release of the critically successful sci-fi film The Martian (Sept 24th, 2015). But don’t be confused, my little space boys and girls, the two share nothing more than a location and lumpy, potato headed characters.
Now I suppose, to its credit, Mars Colony has ambition. You start off on a small Mars base and have to do missions and acquire materials to survive and improve your interstellar quality of life. Unfortunately, any potential the game may have had is masked under roughly 15 km of clunky menu design, awkward game mechanics, and more crashes than NASCAR. If they released the game this early to cash in on Mars-related hype, then they made a terrible mistake. If this is their finished product, then I hope next time they spend more time in the not finished product phase.
I honestly spent very little time actually playing Mars Colony, but that’s mostly because out of the 20 minutes I played, the game crashed 5 times on me. That’s once every 4 minutes. The first time was because I alt-tabbed (a rookie mistake, I know). The second and third times were because I left the game in fullscreen mode when starting a new game. The fourth time was when I hit “buy” in a shop window. And the fifth time was when I opened a door. After that, I was pretty much done, and the focus of my review changed from “Is this a quality gaming experience?” to “I sure am happy Steam has refunds now.”
But even the time I did spend in-game was unimpressive. “Story Mode” begins with you standing outside of the Mars base with the directive to go inside and talk to the commander. I did (very slowly, since the walk speed is one step above legless), and he told me to go outside again. I picked up one quest, which was just a set of coordinates and a line telling me to “tune the radio.” Nothing was intriguing or grabbing, it was just bland and outdated graphics with nothing compelling story-wise to distract me. If that wasn’t enough, the mere act of walking depletes your stamina bar, quickly reducing you to a snail’s pace, jittering along an empty landscape at the speed of dial-up (it was this that prompted me to try to buy a Mars rover, causing crash number four).
But really, are all of these problems that big of a deal? I mean, the game was only a few bucks after all – someone is bound to get their money’s worth right? Right? Oh wait, never mind, Mars Colony: Frontier costs $10.99. Which (if you’re a console gamer) may not seem like so much, but here’s a list of just a few other games available on Steam for the same price: Terraria, Star Wars Battlefront 1 or 2, Portal, any of the Fallout games, any of the Half-Life games, Knights of the Old Republic 1 or 2, The Beginner’s Guide, Papers, Please, FTL, HuniePop, Psychonauts, The Void, Zeno Clash, Hotline Miami, Duke Nukem 3D, Limbo, and Thomas Was Alone.
Bold move Hyper Kat Games, putting yourself up against some of the bestselling and most influential video games of all time when your game can’t make it past the 5 minute mark without seizing up and soiling itself.
Now maybe this is an unfair review. I barely got anywhere in Mars Colony: Frontier (despite my best efforts) and it may bloom into an exciting and dynamic survival game. But if I were a betting man (never tell me the odds) I would put all my money on Mars Colony being an overly ambitious attempt at something beyond the developers capabilities which, while not an evil thing, doesn’t make it a game worth playing. Maybe next time Hyper Kat, but this one just isn’t doing it for me.