Waking Mars is a nice change of pace from the 2D sidescroller where you kill everything. Instead, this game tasks you with growing and cultivating all matter of plants as you traverse the caverns of everyone's favorite red world. The controls are responsive and simple, though the jetpack can be a little slippery if you're trying to push things in midair or corral creatures.
The visuals are a mixed bag. The environments are gorgeous, evoking an artistic, arts 'n' crafts style, and the talking heads during dialog are detailed and realistic. The flora and fauna you encounter, however, feel a bit stiff and oddly-detailed, especially your character. They all end up looking like the product of a Flash game. Minor gripes, really.
A bigger gripe has to be the dialogue. It's pretty well-packed with information and delivered very well, but not an ounce of it is interesting to listen to, and you'll end up skipping the long cutscenes. Your AI companion's attempt at comic relief is passable at best.
Thankfully, the game makes up for the poor writing with some deep albeit repetitive gameplay. Introducing flora and fauna to the red planet is a balancing act; if you're not careful, you can find an area completely taken over by one kind of species, especially when you add different kinds of plants to the mix. Once you get a few hours in and have discovered almost every type of plant, the game falls into a bit of repetition as you wander around trying to find an ending.
The plot itself isn't too special, but the magic of this game is all in the setting. I am a lone man wandering the caves of an alien planet, spreading life wherever I go. There's no real sense of conflict or danger in the game, but the element of discovery and the research mechanic add a great deal of immersion and a sense of wonder about the whole thing.
If you want a "puzzle" platformer that will last you a weekend, Waking Mars is a fun expedition, and I had a good time with it, despite the so-so writing and inconsistent visual style.