Recently released by Crescent Moon Games is Mines of Mars. This is, as you may have guessed, a mining game! Recently transferred from Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, your character arrives on Mars to an unfortunate accident which leaves only him alive. No choice but to get to work, and as the mining progresses, secrets about the planet begin to unfold.
Miners are from Mars
The surface of the planet is your home base. It houses several different buildings, including a re-fueling and health station, buildings to turn raw mined materials into ingots and gems, and a building to spend these in order to purchase all sorts of upgrades. When you go below the surface, you begin your mining by flying around with your jetpack, hacking your way through bricks in search of precious minerals. However, you can only hold so many before you need to go back above ground to process them. And you must always be aware of your fuel levels, so that you are able to make it back to the surface to do so.
As you progress, you encounter more and more enemies. Fortunately you are equipped with a weapon to fend them off, and there are plenty more that you can purchase. The labyrinthine mines make you pay attention to where you are, and as you expand passageways on your way to more minerals it can become a challenge just to remember how to get back home before you run out of fuel. This in conjunction with knowing what materials will be needed for your next upgrade turn the seemingly mundane task of hacking away at bricks into a surprisingly entertaining one.
Pretty, but a Little Hard to Handle
The graphics are impressive. Up on the surface, the planet goes through day and night cycles, and the skies, backdrops, sun and moon, and miscellaneous atmospheric effects are beautiful. The buildings look great, as do the weapons and other items. Unfortunately, you don’t spend too much time looking at these things, as you’re more often mining underground. Good thing the graphics underground are great as well. More cool backdrops and random plants and critters break up the monotony of staring at thousands of blocks everywhere you go. The enemies, while creative, are not quite as impressive aesthetically as the rest of the game though.
The music is just right; mostly relaxed with a good beat. And while it doesn’t draw your attention away from the game, it’s persistently there, adding to the ambience. Same story on the sound effects. Original, fitting, and not overpowering in the least.
The way the controls are designed is ingenious, but I did have a couple of small issues with them. Movement and mining is done on the left-hand side of the screen. Hold up to activate your jetpack, and then fly around by sliding your finger from there. If you don’t move your finger up, you will just run in the direction you drag your finger. By holding over or down when you approach a brick, you will hack at it with your pickaxe. I occasionally had trouble with getting movement started; either flying or running, sometimes I would have to set my finger down and swipe a couple of times to get going.
This didn’t really affect the gameplay, but I did have a larger problem. The right side of the screen is used for firing your weapon. By tapping and holding down, a reticle appears and moves around you in a circle according to which way you drag your finger. In theory it makes sense. In practice, it can be difficult to execute. With practice I became a little better.
A Harvesting Delight!
MoM is another one of these games where you just don’t understand why it is so much fun. You are just going up and down, mining materials in order to get your next upgrade. Be that as it may, this game is incredibly addictive. And it offers a ton of replay value in all of the items that you are able to upgrade and/or purchase. Pickaxes, bins for minerals, weapons, clips, armor, rockets and boots are just a few of these items. And in the unlikely event that you get bored with this stuff, one of the buildings on the surface offers some fun little old-school arcade side games to while away the time.
Mines of Mars is incredibly well-rounded, and has that “it” factor. There’s just something about it that makes you want to keep going back for more minerals. The controls are the only real drawback, and even those aren’t anywhere close to bad. Pick this game up, you won’t put it down.