In 2097, life is discovered on Mars. When your mission of first contact becomes trapped by a cave-in, you must master the alien ecosystem to survive. Soon you stumble upon more than anyone expected, and with time running out, you will make a decision that determines the fate of a lost planet.
User reviews: Very Positive (528 reviews)
Release Date: Dec 13, 2012

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Recommended By Curators

"It's Metroid with a different set of questions for the player to answer: ‘How will this plant react to these conditions and to this creature?’"
Read the full review here.

Reviews

"Surprisingly thoughtful, delightfully atmospheric, smartly written, carefully designed...it gradually unfolds its secrets without holding your hand."
5/5 – Quarter to Three

A science-fiction epic that's a delight to explore, and rewarding to play
9/10 – Pocket Gamer

The game grows around you...deep and rich, like ivy
Rock Paper Shotgun

Thousands of video games ask you to take life, but very few ask you to create it
9.1/10 – Paste Magazine

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About This Game

In 2097, life is discovered on Mars. When your mission of first contact becomes trapped by a cave-in, you must master the alien ecosystem to survive. Soon you stumble upon more than anyone expected, and with time running out, you will make a decision that determines the fate of a lost planet.

Waking Mars is a one-of-a-kind adventure in which you jetpack through subterranean Mars encountering a host of extraordinary alien lifeforms that operate as a living, breathing ecosystem. Learn and master the behaviors of these creatures to create ecosystems of your own design if you are to survive and discover the secrets of Mars’ past.

Key Features

  • Explore an open-ended network of exotic caverns.
  • Decode mysterious signals and discover long lost ruins.
  • Survive an unearthly world of strange creatures and hazardous terrain.
  • Grow a vibrant, interconnected ecosystem of exotic plants and alien creatures.
  • Cultivate one species to feed another, eliminate unwanted infestations, and research unique behaviors.
  • 2012 IGF Nominee: Excellence in Audio. Features nearly two hours of critically acclaimed original music.
  • A fully PC native control scheme, designed for both mouse+keyboard and for gamepads.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X

    Minimum:

    • OS:Windows XP
    • Processor:x86-compatible, 2-Ghz or faster
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0, or OpenGL 2.1 with framebuffer extensions
    • Hard Drive:400 MB HD space

    Minimum:

    • OS:MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or higher
    • Processor:Intel Core 2 Duo
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0, or OpenGL 2.1 with framebuffer extensions
    • Hard Drive:400 MB HD space
Helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
13.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 31
Platform games aren't at the top of my list - mainly because of their limited world, low replayability and (many of them) being highly linear - however, Waking Mars is one of the most enjoyable games I've been playing lately, and for me, one of the best platform games to date. Its sci-fi/ Mars setting and artwork caught my attention; but it was the goal of creating and encouraging an ecosystem within the Red Planet that sold me on it.

The story is simple and straightforward, but it is intelligently executed and really intriguing. Character development is little, but just right. There are no enemies, only yourself, the 'flauna' and the environment - but you might be surprised at just how much of a threat you can pose to yourself. The goals are laid out before you in a no-nonsense manner: you are exploring, searching, gathering, manipulating, creating, and de-constructing to create, in a more favourable way to the environment's (and your) needs. There is something to be said for balance, and you learn by trial and error; but don't worry, there is nothing that you can't undo - though it may require a measure of patience.

The game mechanics are superbly fluid - the game runs without a hitch (it's enough for me to say that if I can run this on my present setup, anyone can - trust me). The time, work and research that went into this game is incredible. Overall gameplay is relaxing with adequate moments of doubt, constant wonder and dashes of uncertainty. It is a wonder to me that I do feel a sense of real isolation while playing - I think this is thanks to the beauty of the graphical style and the great music - but this is exactly what I would expect, it's the lonely and mysterious Red Planet, after all. The time it will take you to complete this game? It depends on you. I completed it at the listed time played.

One of the best features of this game for me was the ability to revisit any area at any time without limit. This alone makes this platformer just so non-linear. As well as being vital - you will have to travel around to resupply your seeds, revisit some areas dependant on other areas' progress, or just to re-balance an area if need be - it is a real treat to be able to return and see how the caverns have been thriving (or not) in your absence.

IMPORTANT: If non-stop action, mayhem and destruction - i.e. death-n-glory - are your bread-and-butter, you will fast become bored with Waking Mars. BUT...

...If you enjoy platform games, I believe this is a must for your collection and many will undoubtedly enjoy it. If you are a wary platformer like me, it may blow you away and you won't regret this purchase (reg. price is reasonable; on sale price, you'd be crazy not to try it).

Happily jet-packing (and occasionally bouncing) around in the ever-deepening caverns of Mars to re-awaken it... 11/10
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
9.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 26
I'd recommend Waking Mars based on a score of 7/10. Story was interesting and funny. Voice acting well done. Animations and graphics were good.

However, Waking Mars was lacking in something fundamental when I think of Metroidvania games. Maybe gaming skill or perhaps something more basic like keeping player engaged. You go through the process of planting seeds, deciding which plants to grow--which you are scored per area based on your choices--exploring, and collecting seeds. It's slow moving, and collecting seeds can be time consuming--even warping back to old areas, just to collect seeds for new areas, sometimes more than once per area.

Watching plants through their animations can be slow growing. I suppose if you want all the achievements, be careful 5 staring each level, then moving on. You might actually miss something.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 4
I've never played anything like Waking Mars. It's a puzzle game based on manipulating an alien ecosystem. Sometimes you need to find a way to get the plants to reproduce. Sometimes you need to plant a particular combination of plants. Sometimes you need to do something in particular with the plants (e.g. herd a mobile plant into a carnivorous plant).

If you die you will lose your progress since you entered the room. If you keep at it you will eventually succeed.

The depiction of science is pretty accurate. You will need to pay attention to what happens around you, read research, and experiment. You will frequently learn things by accident.

The only complaint I have is the game is mildly grindy in places. Sometimes raising the biomass in a room sufficiently takes doing something repeatedly, for 10 to 15 minutes, rather than just figuring out what to do. The key to minimizing the frustration with these rooms is usually feeding seeds to the mobile plants while standing next to a plant that produces seeds. Each time a seed is eaten the seed-producing plant will release another, so this makes the process pretty fast.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
7.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 10
This was a nice simple game with a touch of humor. If you are really bored, and just want a game to play, this one is alright. Its slow, has a puzzle element to it and enough depth to keep the game interesting.
I have a few friends that didn't like this game and I can completely understand why. It looks stupid and its very basic. It also seems like a tablet game.

Pros:
-Atmosphere
-Controls
-Sci-fi Humor

Cons:
-Non really. Its just a casual game.
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0 of 4 people (0%) found this review helpful
0.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 4
I dispise this game and yet sadly it shows up in my library, taunting me. The story mode made no sense, thank ♥♥♥♥ing christ I only spent 78 cents on it
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0.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 21
This game has a better control than the tablet version. the storytelling is also very engaging - enough to make you want to play further. I haven't gone too far, but this is probably one of the best mobile game to date, and this port is excellent too.
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4.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 25
Really fun. you should buy it
Was this review helpful? Yes No
9.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 1
Had no problem getting to full core power and getting all the achievements. Great ambience and lots of fun to be had farming weird creatures, but expect to have to grind a little to get all the areas to max. I encountered a bug where I found a location before getting the quest, breaking the quest, but that didn't affect the game in any other way. Good game, go get it.
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10.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 31
One of the most beautiful depictions of Mars i have seen in a game. Bulk is exploration, puzzle and planting Martian "plant" life.
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12.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 3
Highly intriguing concept, with a very engaging narrative and characters. Difficult to describe the gameplay without spoilers, but there's no 'killing stuff'; rather, you 'grow' different things (some of which have the capacity to do you damage, so while dying etc. isn't a focal point you do have to be wary of taking too many hits) to progress within the game. Would definitely recommend.
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12.2 hrs on record
Posted: November 8
Pros:
- Very interesting mechanics, story and exploration.
- Excellent voice acting and dialogue.
- Great support from the game designers at the Steam forum.

Cons:
- Can be a little confusing at certain points.
- Progress depends on certain actions that are not always well indicated.

Great game overall. :)
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7.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 17
What a delightful little game! Being a mobile port, I was ready to dismiss it right away, but after the first session I totally changed my opinion. It's actually a really great Harvest Moon-lite, without any combat, just pure exploration. I would describe it as a garden'em up: you have to create your own little garden and uncover the completely telegraphed secret of the cave. It's soothing and relaxing to wander around the alien flora.
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62 of 68 people (91%) found this review helpful
13.5 hrs on record
Posted: May 24
Hard science fiction is a rare guest in video games. Not having any evil aliens or cool laser-shooting guns isn’t a good premise for dynamic action. Luckily, Waking Mars isn’t actually aiming at cheap thrills or fast-paced shooting, but rather prefers to be a meditative journey and succeeds at it.
The year is 2093, player takes the role of Liang, chinese astronaut, taking part in international planetary mission to Mars, studying life that was discovered in an underground cavern system. If the thought of some green evil aliens pointing their death-ray guns had crossed your mind at this point, shoo it away. Or maybe you’ve thought of some ancient ruins, secure vaults,containing secrets of advanced precursors? You’re wrong again. Life that has been discovered is rather primitive. It is a strange kind of hybrid between plants and animals. It’s called Zoa. Not much is known about these species; you will be the first and only human to make contact with it and observe it in its natural habitat.
And that is the game: travelling and observing, filling built in-game encyclopedia with articles describing behaviour and features of all types of these “plants”. Yes, there’s actually quite a lot of them. Some stay in place, some move around; some feel good on regular soil, some require acidic loam for growing. There are even those whose spores are exploding, killing all other Zoa around. There you have it, this is as much brutality as you can get in Waking Mars. While this is not the first video game declining use of violence as the main plot progression device and problem solver, not even the first among metroidvanias, it’s still an admirable feat. You wander around the caves, first on foot, later using jetpack, unveiling the beauty of an enclosed ecosystem, where various types of Zoa form a perfect cycle of life and death.
Most common obstacles on the player’s path are Cerebranes, gigantic membranes covering passages between caverns. In order to open them you’ll have to increase biomass. Picking up spores and placing them on fertile ground sounds easy enough, and it actually is… at the beginning. Increasing variety of species requires careful planning to achieve that sweet spot when that number is finally high enough. You’ll have to make everything work together with maximum “profit”. At its heart the game is nearly a city-builder where you connect houses with roads, provide appliances, keeping in mind the energy, waste and communications. Being a space “gardener” is a rather soothing process if you let it be so. This game doesn’t like those who are in a hurry, who can tip off balance so easily and want some obvious solutions. Eventually they will stumble upon a cave, where just picking up seeds and placing them on all the green spots won’t be enough. I can’t really say that Waking Mars requires out-of-the-box thinking, it’s not actually that hard, but there is space for creativity here. You can try different solutions, experiment with Zoa proportions.
The pace of the game is emphasized with main hero’s loneliness. Not in some metaphorical way, but in actual one. Liang is the only human here. His colleague Amani safely stays on the base and contacts him on the radio. This distant voice coming somewhere from above is as much company as you can get here. If you don’t count OCTO, mission’s AI, of course. It’s sci-fi after all. Dialogues being rare are wonderfully written, perfectly voiced and are presented in the right amount, are enough to keep the player’s head in the story progression, but not ruining that desolation mood.
Distinctive art-style inspired by 60s and 70s illustrations of popular science magazines glues all of that together, making this truly unique. This is a niché game, sure. But it stands out even among other metroidvanias. Being slow-paced and reflective it never becomes boring. It has that long-lost sense of intergalactic adventure and discovery, which we lost decades ago, surrendering it to Lucas’ space fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against that. And shooting can be fun too. But can we have more games like Waking Mars as well, please?
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16 of 19 people (84%) found this review helpful
12.0 hrs on record
Posted: July 27
Fun puzzler! Gets a bit dark which helps drive the need to explore and make it to the end. The explinations are fun and working through a room can sometimes be challenging if you don't think enough ahead. Enjoyed it.
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6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
9.2 hrs on record
Posted: June 10
Waking Mars is the story of your exploration though a vast unexplored cavern below the Martian surface. Along your journey you will discover plantlife which comes in all shapes and forms which you will utitilize to help you traverse the labyrinth of caves. As you discover new plant life, you will then research the plants in order to learn more about how they interact with their enviornment. For example, what does this plant eat, what is this plant vulnerrable to, and what happens when this plant becomes... really big? There are many different plant species and you will need to learn how they interact with one another if you want to sucessfully discover the secrets of the Martian caves.

The voice acting is well done. The enviornments and graphics are quite pretty. It is rather gratifying to research the plants and discover how they interact. Overall, Waking Mars is executed very well and was a pleasure to play. Waking Mars takes about 8 hours to finish.

9/10

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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
14.5 hrs on record
Posted: June 14
I picked this up on sale and couldn't be happier. It is a short game. I am quite pleased with the level of polish for this game. All of the animations are very smooth. The physics game play is natual. The unique aspects of the game, the aiming and culitvation of the ecosystem, is very well balanced. I liked the game so much I played through to the end. This is a great game at the price. There was some hic up with the audio at a couple of points where it clipped and produced and annyoying chirp. But it did not take away from the other audio. The gamepad integration was a nice touch. It does make for a better experience when playing a platform type game. I expect this game to have some staying power. If it is on sale or your looking for something new, pick up this game for a weekend play through.
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14 of 25 people (56%) found this review helpful
8.1 hrs on record
Posted: May 31
It includes an honest to god hugging simulator.

10/10
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.5 hrs on record
Posted: June 16
Very relaxing low stakes sci-fi gardening simulator. Minimal story intrusion with easy to grasp mechanics lets you concentrate on creativity and exploration. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.5 hrs on record
Posted: June 10
Nice little indie title. Plays well, makes logical sense, offers a strong understanding of science (specificaly geology and biology), and incredible voice acting. Though different from "The Swapper," "Mars" is as superb a game as that and I highly recommend giving this a go. :-)
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 20
A sci-fi indie game, no real enemies, except for environment hazards. Basically, you plant stuff until the requirement is reached to cross to the next area. If you are looking for a non-violent game, with once in a while side missions, then this is the game for you.
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