iPad Game Review: Expedition Mars HD for iPad Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Expedition Mars HD is a point & click adventure game set on a damaged spacecraft that has crash-landed on Mars. It features clever puzzles and mini-games, although it is marred by a poorly implemented hint system, a constant timer, and IAPs.
Expedition Mars begins with you awakening inside a damaged, smoke-filled spacecraft. It is up to you to solve the mystery and escape. As with all point & click adventures, finding objects and putting them to use when/where/how they are needed is at the heart of this game. It is well-implemented for the most part, however, I found myself clicking randomly fairly often; looking for something I had missed. In games like this, I have always considered this type of flailing to be a form of cheating. However, I gladly did it over and over again rather than access... THE HINT SYSTEM. Yes, there is a built-in hint system. Unfortunately, it is extremely unforgiving in that it will eagerly deduct a charge whether or not it was actually helpful. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem as it is fairly standard that these things recharge over time. On Mars, however, apparently they do not. Of course, this is completely intentional, thanks to the availability of additional battery cells (the currency of the hint system) via IAP. While it is possible to recharge your batteries in-game, it is a tedious process without an ounce of fun in it. Again, certainly intentional. Another not-so-fun feature is the limited supply of oxygen, which inexorably drains as you work your way through the game. Unlike other adventure games, this timer cannot be disabled for more relaxed play. An odd omission until you realize that you can also purchase oxygen via the IAP system. Of course, O2 can also be replenished in-game through a completely tedious process similar to that for the hint system. There's a fun adventure game in here somewhere. Unfortunately, it's hidden behind an army of Nevosoft Execs who will reach into your pocket as you play.
The first time I launched the game, I was startled at how muddy and low-rez everything looked. Unfortunately, this opinion did not improve over time. Not only is this game not retina-enabled, I suspect the graphical assets only qualify as "HD" because they are better than those in the SD version. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that you have a full 360 x 360 view of your environment, but every time you stop looking around you can't help but be disappointed with the view. Additionally, movement is not fluid and seamless, but is instead handled by simply loading the graphics at the new location. This is not a 3D world. It is a series of interconnected 3D spaces.
The sound effects and music are quite immersive, and were the best part of the game. I actually reached for my headphones while I played.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Unfortunately, Expedition Mars HD is thick with IAPs that feel compulsory almost to the point of necessity. It's one thing to give people a chance to enhance their experience with in-game purchases, but it's quite another to balance your game so that it is not enjoyable without them. Expedition Mars HD falls squarely in the latter camp.
Expedition Mars HD is a competent point & click adventure. Unfortunately, it is seriously diminished by the way it implements IAPs and its unimpressive graphics.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 2 - Low-resolution graphical assets mean very little eye candy here. Sound: - 4 - The sound is the best part of the game. Put on your headphones. Controls: - 3 - Movement is fairly straightforward, but some of the mini-games feel unresponsive or poorly calibrated. Gameplay: - 2 - There's a great adventure game in here, but you're going to have to pay if you want to enjoy it frustration-free.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Be careful how you use your hints; they are easy to waste. Try as I might, I couldn't find a way to restart the game so don't waste time getting oriented; you don't get any re-dos unless you uninstall/reinstall the game. Mindlessly tapping is your friend.