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 (637 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

Steam Greenlight

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
54 of 55 people (98%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
13.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 31, 2014
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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22 of 25 people (88%) found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
17.2 hrs on record
Posted: January 22
Deciding take a break from the great and loud AAA projects and start download this game. What can I say, the recent indie games please me more than popular brands. If you are looking for mega graphics then just pass by, and if you want to turn your brain to think a little, enjoy a beautiful story and finally awaken Mars, you should definitely try it!
Recommend 10/10
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13 of 13 people (100%) found this review helpful
13.9 hrs on record
Posted: November 21, 2014
This was a really nice chill game. I got about 12 hours gameplay out of it. Definitely would recommend, especially if you like ecology, space, science, or just exploring worlds.

The gameplay is really nice and organic. I love how unstructured it was, often having many or even infinite solutions to any problem
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12 of 14 people (86%) found this review helpful
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 20, 2014
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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8 of 8 people (100%) found this review helpful
9.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 26, 2014
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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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 4, 2014
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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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.6 hrs on record
Posted: January 25
Story = Interesting / pretty good
Gameplay = really good
Graphics = good (aside from cutscenes / dialoges)
Guidance = overwhelming to the point of confusion
Controls = pretty good
Voice acting = decent
Replay value = not really... once 100% completed, why bother?

Overall = Well worth the money, even at full price.

Sumary: I haven't completed a game in quite a long time... and I've never once gotten 100% achievements unlocked for any game. But this game was compelling enough for me to keep going and actually get it 100% completed. I'll admit that it got a little frustrating / confusing towards the end and I ended up resorting to some outside guidance through steam discussions in order to figure out my next move, but I'm sure I could have eventually figured it out on my own if I had that kind of patience. The 3 endings for the game (not including the optional pre-mature exiting the cave ending) really helped keep me interested in re-loading the game to see the other endings, and of course, the other endings kept getting better and better. The voice acting was a bit weird in places though. Like the 3rd ending where he goes up into space, her reaction was a little anti-climactic and didn't really feel like a realistic reaction. As far as the guidance goes... the game really tries to help you out throughout the entire game, it even gives you an interface of details for each species in the game which helps a lot, unfortunately, if you forget something task related, or make a big mistake (namely the explosive seeds when you first get them and ending related areas)... it's possible to end up being stuck in the game with no clue how to progress further since you can't get the cutscenes / dialogs to repeat, so make sure to read and listen very well the first time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game. Highly recommended for those looking for something different than usual.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
11.6 hrs on record
Posted: February 17
This is a great and addictive game of exploration and experimentation.
On normal mode it's very easy as you can "fly" and have mostly to elude some dangers and catch some objects.
The development of the story and the new elements you found were a strong draw to keep me playing this.

Very, very, recommended.

The only minor flaws I found are
1. At times you have to go back to previous rooms and wait a little to collect some things but at least there is a map that make this easy.
2. Sometimes even if you are seeing something on screen and your character is clearly seeing something, you have to stand in certain spots so that your character or your companions acknowledge this and you can continue.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 16, 2014
cool explorationand/research game. fly around in your jet pack and explore the underground caves of mars. watch out for dripping acid. screwing around with the alien plant life is very satisfying.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
10.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 31, 2014
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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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.2 hrs on record
Posted: November 8, 2014
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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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
9.5 hrs on record
Posted: December 28, 2014
Waking Mars is revolutionary. If I had to give it a genre, I would call it a Dynamic Puzzle Exploration Game. It is a 2D Platformer game with a very user-friendly item management system. It has definite influences from classic Nintendo games, combining the elements of exploration, isolation and atmosphere of Metroid with growing plants and food/nutrient management of Pikmin. Anyone who enjoys either of these should take a look at this game. Anyone who likes both (like myself) will probably sit down and play the entire game in one sitting. It is a rather short game, lasting anywhere from 5-12 hours, depending on how thorough you want to be. The 17 Steam Achievements are all very easy to get on your first playthrough if you give it effort.

SYNOPSIS: The basic premise of the game is this: you are an astronaut exploring a recently-discovered cave system on Mars. The only other characters are the Mars HQ woman and your environmental suit AI.

ZOA: As you enter the cave system, you discover living plant-like creatures, termed "Zoa" by your AI. These Zoa grow from different types of seeds planted in patches of fertile soil within the caves. You can carry a number of each type of seed at a time, saving them for later use.

RESEARCH: As you interact with the environment, your AI develops a research log. Once you have discovered all of the elements of a certain subject, you unlock a Steam achievement for that subject. Some of the elements are fairly straight-forward; others will take some serious thinking or random luck.

BIOMASS: Each Zoa in a chamber contributes to a Biomass counter. Once different levels of Biomass are reached, certain events occur. Some include barriers opening to new parts of the map, certain Zoa waking out of dormancy, etc.

SOUNDTRACK: The soundtrack is very ambient in nature and has an organic feel to it. It completes the atmospheric sense that the game presents well and does not distract from the action whatsoever.

ART: This game does not have your run-of-the-mill shooter 3D render graphics, as it is only a platformer. That doesn't mean that it has the pixelated style that has been popularized of late. Waking Mars has beautifully drawn background layers that fade in and out, giving the illusion of real depth. The art team did an impressive job with very original plant-form creature design. It is a bit on the minimalist side and gives a very realistic, tangible feel to alien Mars.

CONS: The only real downside to this game is the protagonist's personality. The AI is bright, happy and humorous. The HQ woman is funny at moments and believable the rest of the time. The main character is cold and sounds like he's talking in a combination of dictionary-speak and Medieval English. It is very awkward compared to the natural characters he talks to. This only really gets on your nerves during cutscenes, which you can skip (right mouse button).

I picked this game up on sale, but after playing it I'd say it's definitely worth the inexpensive standard price.

Final Score: 10/10
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
10.9 hrs on record
Posted: October 13, 2014
The only Single-player game that I want to play again!
9/10 - Very atmospheric, with nice graphics and easy controls. Deffinatly worth full price!
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
8.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 4, 2014
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.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 3, 2014
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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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
7.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 17, 2014
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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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
10.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 12, 2014
Though not action packed, this game kind of grew on me the deeper I decended into the cave systems and discovered more flora and fauna.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
10.4 hrs on record
Posted: December 16, 2014
This is simply a beautifully crafted indie game. It invokes a real sense of exploration, discovery and wonder. I really enjoyed playing this game. If you ever find yourself watching wildlife you will find this game really immersive and enjoyable.

You could call it a 2d puzzle game, but that is just not doing it any justice. It uses simple 2d graphics to portray the martian landscape to really good effect. Before I played the game I thought the graphics were too basic, but somehow when actually playing the game I found the art beautiful.


You land on Mars and have to explore, observe, experiment and learn how the martian ecosystem works. You can then manipulate the ecosystem to progress deeper into the cave system to discover yet more organisms and more complex interactions. It may sound daunting, but it is a very gradual path of discovery that is both addictive and rewarding.

As well as the well designed graphics, physics, organisisms and their interactions, it also has a good story, multiple endings and great voice acting. It is just the right length, not padded or bloated. It is just a really sharp polished product.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
12.7 hrs on record
Posted: October 6, 2014
I don't know if I could recommend "Waking Mars" more highly. It's a thoughtful sci-fi game, sincere but not overly serious or melodramatic, a story about scientists on Mars studying recently discovered flora deep underground. And by "scientists" I mean actual scientists - intelligent characters who don't do or say stupid things for the sake of the plot or seek out danger just for the sake of action. In fact, there isn't really much in the way of action in the game at all. There are hazards, but no enemies; challanges, but no crises. Just fully-realized people seeking knowledge and exploration.

Pros: Well acted
Nicely animated, fully realized world
Scientifically plausible
Evocative, but never intrusive, soundtrack
Thoughtful story grounded in reality
Spirit of discovery and exploration

Cons: Not a 4A game, so no big cut scenes or dramatic action

Pro/Con: Serious, intelligent game not for the thrill-seekers among us.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.9 hrs on record
Posted: January 26
This one really surprised me. Virtually no one on my friends list has it, and it has simplistic controls due to its mobile roots. It still manages to have interesting gameplay with decent balance with progressively increasing difficulty, but what really shocked me was the storyline. With its limited cast of Liang, Amani, and the A.R.T. emoticon robot who acts and sounds like Borderlands' Claptrap, it's managed to make me care about the two human characters. The dialogue intelligently mixes hard science with the fantasy aspects and sprinkles in just a little bit of technobabble. It's compelling to play and doesn't rely on overused gaming tropes like leveling up or endless gradual equipment power progression.

The gameplay is a mix of puzzle and platformer. It's also pretty original. There are few hazards you need to navigate and lots of places to restore your health. The challenge comes with properly filling each area with a sufficient amount of biomass, using the seeds you collect and the fertile ground around you. Though sometimes you may find yourself brute forcing a couple puzzles by herding Phyta into a corner and regularly throwing seeds at them.
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