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What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Despite the all of the research into the presence of ancient life or water on Mars, it turns out the red planet is only good for one thing in the end: methodical mineral stripping. In Mines of Mars, you delve below the world’s surface to pillage its gems and ores for your own gain. Gathering materials and crafting upgrades is fun, and the solid pacing keeps you heading back into the darkness.
As a lone miner trapped on the planet’s surface, you have a simple-but-satisfying mission. Using pickaxes, drills, jetpacks, and firearms, you create tunnels in the dirt and navigate strange caverns. You collect resources, bring them back to the surface, and use them for upgrades that make you faster and more efficient. The loop isn’t complicated, but it’s fun and accessible.
The tiny sparks of joy make it all worthwhile – like when you find a rich vein of emerald, or when you finally have enough cobalt for an upgrade you’ve been eyeing. I kept diving back below the surface time after time pursuing those rewarding moments, and I was always just a few good runs away from getting something cool. The new weapons and tools are spaced out perfectly, keeping you working just long enough to appreciate a new toy when you get it.
The exploration is entertaining, but combat is a different story. Fending off the native wildlife is a challenge thanks to the control scheme, which has you touching the left side of the screen for movement, and the right side for aiming and shooting. This layout makes sense, but it feels uncooperative and clumsy. Precision is too difficult when you’re on the move, which makes some of the boss creatures particularly difficult. The encounters aren’t enough to ruin the game, but combat adds more annoyance than fun to the experience.
Mines of Mars is a competent and addictive take on a proven formula; the atmosphere and art direction are cool, but the gameplay doesn’t do much to distinguish itself. The cycle of digging, upgrading, and more digging is familiar at every turn, but I still had fun carving out a place for myself on Mars.
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