I have a soft spot for games that are made using any of the RPG Maker suites, partly due to my enjoyment of RPG games, but mostly because I used to tinker around with it back when the most recent version was RM2K. I never made anything really resembling a game, but I did manage to make quite a few decent hustling, bustling cities, just ones that had no real story behind them. Still, to twelve year old me, it was great fun and I really enjoyed seeing what the community was able to come up with, and the fact that there are still developers using the now massively updated and improved RPG Makers warms my heart, and makes me want to go back to making RPGs.
Enter Mars Underground. An indie game developed in RPG Maker DS+, it’s a beautifully styled game that gives you the opportunity to play as a somewhat angsty school kid trapped in a Groundhog Day type world, where the day you just lived repeats over and over. While the day repeats itself, your actions can differ in quite a few ways, and most of the things you do actually have consequences on your day. Rifling through your sister’s boxes and climbing on your mother’s bed don’t really have too much impact, save for annoying them, but turning off the TV while your sister is watching it will cause your mum to lose her patience with you and send you off to school immediately. I know these things are relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but a lot of effort has gone into having realistic repercussions for what you do in the game, even with just small things, is really cool. There are also certain things you can do that will affect how everyone around you acts with you, and some of these can be quite funny, if a little disgusting.
Something I never really dabbled with in the RPG Maker tool was the musical aspect. There were a bunch of songs and sound effects that came free with the game, and while none of them were exactly brilliant, they worked fine in my city-scapes. Mars Underground takes it to a whole new level though, as even in their short preview there are some terrific tunes to listen to. It can also very easily go under the radar as, although they are great to listen to, they don’t take attention away from the game itself, but instead complement it so well that it really gives you a wonderful overall experience.
There is a major difference between this game and most games that come out of the RPG Maker community – this one, like another RPG Maker game Always Sometimes Monsters, has no battles. This makes it much more of an adventure type role playing game rather than your traditional one that sees you grinding endlessly against low level monsters to try to get to the next level so you can grind on slightly harder monsters. It’s a bloody nice breath of fresh air not having to battle against plethoras of slime balls to progress, and because of this, it forces the developer to think of other ways to stymie the player. In this game, you’ve got to use your head to progress through the story; doing everything it asks you while trying to solve the mystery of your repeating timeline. There are plenty of areas and items to discover, as well as people to talk to, even if some of them aren’t that interested in chatting to you. Developing the game this way makes it so much more enjoyable, as it removes the crap padding that some developers use as a crutch to increase the amount of time spent on the story, meaning that the game you actually play is actually a flowing, uninterrupted story.
Now, it’s just a simple demo for now, so it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from it. What I’ve seen and played so far, I’ve really liked though, and there aren’t too many games that can grab you with a demo that lasts less than half an hour. There’s definitely a lot that the developer can be proud about, and there’s so much potential already that I’m eagerly awaiting the full release – or even just a little bit more added on to the demo – so that I can play it all the way through. It’s definitely a game that you should all check out – and you can do so by visiting their website at marsunderground.net