Is there life on Mars? Or should this one be left alone on the red planet growing potatoes?
Man has been looking up at the stars for all time, and with technology and understanding came our deep love and appreciation of space. Few kids grew up not wanting to be an astronaut at some point, and many children nowadays fuse this love with an adoration of video games. So I deeply pity any child that got the gift of a Nintendo Switch this Christmas, only for their eyes to be met on the eShop with what they could only presume to be a fun game about space exploration. In a world where Dead Space, Mass Effect, Starlink & more exist, this particular title deserves to be blasted out of the airlock…
As the title may have given away, JCB Pioneer Mars tasks you as an operative of a JCB base on the nearby red planet, helping to terraform it for human civilisation. You’ll have to walk on the surface whilst battling weather patterns and maneuvering low gravity, before you eventually tackle machinery and menial tasks as you build to create new buildings and deal with the issues that Mars offers.
However, you would have to have a real vested interest in JCB or Mars to get any enjoyment out of this title, as much like Matt Damon trying to farm potatoes, everything you think could possibly go wrong, eventually does. The game opens with an abysmal visual fidelity, looking like a PS2 game and running frames like a kinetoscope. The game is constantly battling to keep up with even the limited things it seems to be throwing at you, neither does it offer a reprieve. Blighttown this aint, yet the processing power of the Switch seems to be pissing in the martian wind as this game squanders whatever power it apparently pulls.
If the game could put together a single moment of visual fidelity though, the player would still be met a giant wall of dull red dust and soil that fills the screen constantly. Your character looks like a first attempt from the DS eshop title MOON and moves like an 80s robot butler while the array of environments on offer only ever moves to dull grey corridors or dull grey machinery.
Even beyond the visuals, this game is bogged down in monotony as it is such a simple game of follow the next marker to complete the next task with a single button press. I was quite excited at the prospect of farming sim type game set in space, and I love the satisfaction of slowly building up resources to create a virtual paradise but this game doesn’t let you do any of that. It’s just simple follow the marker tasks with tedious traversing between them and there was nothing in this title I could glean as fun. Brought down with tedious gameplay and looking worse than a builder’s bum, I can only recommend avoiding this game unless you have a burning passion for JCB or the planet Mars, but even then there’s much better space based games to play on your Switch. Leave this one stranded on Mars!