Our oceans are important. I feel like this is a fact of life most people are aware of. However, pollution and climate change aren't particularly playing nice with planet Earth or our oceans. In the distant future, we may not even live on Earth, instead leaving it to the animals. Such is the premise of Jupiter & Mars, a VR game where you play as a pair of dolphins trying to deal with all the trash humanity has left behind. Is it worth cleaning up, or should this be added to the trash pile?
Jupiter & Mars takes place in the distant future. When global warming causes the Earth to flood, and resources are running thin, humanity suddenly vanishes. You play as Jupiter, a dolphin who, along with her life partner Mars, aim to shut down mysterious devices left behind by the humans. That's really about all there is to the game's story. There isn't really any character development or noteworthy beats. Well, none besides the ending, which is noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. I think the tone that Jupiter & Mars was shooting for was a sad or dramatic one, but it's so comically hilarious that I burst out laughing. Word of advice: you can't set a dramatic sacrifice to a happy Eurobeat song, or at least not without a lot more work put into it.
Diving Into the World of Jupiter & Mars
Similar to Falcon Age, you first have to choose if you want to play Jupiter & Mars as a VR game or a regular one. Ultimately, there's not much difference between the two. However, in VR, the game's artistic style really does pop. The dark colors with neon highlights look absolutely lovely, and it's very much worth experiencing if you have the chance. It helps that there are various comfort options to make this easy to adjust to. Similarly, there's a fantastic soundtrack that makes great use of electronic beats. It would almost fit that Jupiter & Mars is happening in the same world as something like Rez.
Taking place over five levels, your goal in each level is to shut down a hidden human device. To do so you'll have to do some exploration, and often help other sea creatures in need. In general, this means you're just sort of aimlessly wandering until you stumble upon what you have to do next. Were the world full of interesting things to interact with, or even just general hints on where you should be going, this wouldn't be a problem. However, it's just sort of a blank landscape with little to populate it. There are collectibles, mostly in the form of trinkets that you can find in clams. However, it barely manages to make a level feel like it has stuff going on.
Learning to Swim in Jupiter & Mars' Undersea Adventure
Jupiter has a few basic abilities to help you with your task. The most important is echolocation, which highlights everything a short distance in front of her. It doesn't give directions, but at least it can be used to lock onto rocks and gates that Mars can bash open. At any point, Jupiter can command Mars to bash something, which is kind of humorous but gets the job done. The final ability Jupiter has is to blow a ring of bubbles, which will scare away jellyfish and interact with things in the environment. There are implications that she'll get more abilities as you progress, but all these end up being passive skills like swimming deeper or through currents. There's nothing that changes the way you actually play the game.
I did like that this opened up new areas to swim around in earlier levels. It took me about 4 hours to finish Jupiter & Mars' story, and this added another hour or two to the game to get collectibles. However, as mentioned before, there's very little to actually do in these levels. You can find new collectibles and see some new mostly empty landscapes, but that's about it. I think a sunken Statue of Liberty is in the New York level somewhere. I guess that's cool.
Jupiter & Mars Review | Final Thoughts
There's just very little to say about Jupiter & Mars's gameplay. However, there is some to say about its messaging, which is rather awkward. There are some obvious pro-environmental messages here, which is great. The game has little videos about both SeaLegacy and The Ocean Foundation in the extras menu. That's a great way to invest players in these causes. However, if you don't know about SeaLegacy before the game, or don't watch the video before playing, the way they're actually portrayed in-game doesn't quite make them look very good. The game's second level sees you helping a young whale escape from a sunken amusement part branded with SeaLegacy's name and logo. If I wasn't already aware they were a pro-environmental group, I would have been confused. The game portrays it like they're a SeaWorld parody park. It's probably not the best look for a great charity.
In a similar vein, Jupiter & Mars is just not the best look for a great subject. While the art style really stands out, I absolutely love the dark colors with a splash of neon look, and the soundtrack is fantastic, nothing else in the game is really that interesting. It's boring to play, over rather quickly, can't seem to hit the right tone, and doesn't show off its causes very well. While VR owners may like having some pretty colors to stare at, I can't suggest the game for anyone else.
TechRaptor reviewed Jupiter & Mars on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developer.
- Great Art Style
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Story Misses Tone Completely
- Boring Gameplay
- Empty World
- Doesn't Portray Enviromental Message Very Well