Video Game: Waking Mars

The Red Planet just got a whole lot less dead.

"The red planet was silent as I thought my way through my problem. No battle robots attacked me."

Waking Mars is a puzzle game where you, a scientist/astronaut named Liang, are tasked with researching life on Mars that was discovered four years prior. Said life is living underground, because where else could organic life possibly live on Mars?

Gameplay consists of throwing seeds of the resident plantlike life, called Zoa, at suitable patches of soil to grow new specimens. Sounds easy, right? Well, in order to progress you have to grow your miniature ecosystem enough to raise Biomass, which opens biological doors to other parts of the cavern. And this can't be done by simply throwing whatever at wherever. The player must utilize the unique interactions between the various species of Zoa in order to optimize and balance the ecosystem while maximizing biomass. But as Liang delves deeper into the caves, it becomes evident that there is something much bigger than some alien plants sleeping beneath the surface.

Waking Mars provides examples of:

  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Pretty much every living thing you find on Mars has some form of this.
  • Cool Starship: Not only is the Sentients' starship the size of Lethe Cavern (i.e. the entire playable area of the game), it's also made of quartz.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Possibly justified by Liang's spacesuit, but the magma in the depths of the cavern doesn't damage him unless he touches it.
    • It doesn't damage Zoa near it either, which is to be expected from a species of pseudo-plants hardy enough to remain in stasis for literal billions of years.
  • Dying Race: The Sentients are very much this, having been forced to enter stasis underneath the Martian surface due to some cataclysm that turned Mars into the red rock that it is today.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: In the Low Power ending, you construct a biological greenhouse/biodome on the surface of Mars for the Zoa to survive in. However, the magma maintaining the life-giving heat below ground is still cooling off. In the Full Power ending, you get put in stasis and taken on a rocket ride by the Sentients to who knows where... but Liang still has to eat, right?
  • Fungus Humongous: Hydronmaxes.
  • Genre-Busting: It's a Puzzle Platformer (already a genre combination) with God Game-like gameplay with the structure of a Metroidvania.
  • Hollywood Acid: Averted by the acidic fertile ground, which simply has different compounds in it allowing it to support different Zoa. Played straight with the acid pools and falling slime, however.
  • Mission Control: Amani, Liang's partner, and ART
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Despite 0CT0's pleasant demeanor and sophisticated avatar, contrasted with ART's Captain Obvious tendencies and malfunctioning grammar, the former freely admits that the latter is his intellectual superior "by several orders of magnitude." This makes sense, as 0CT0 is a relatively simple probe and ART is the core AI for the entire mission.
    • As it turns out, ART's annoying voice and roundabout manner of speech is the result of a prank played on the mission before launch. Someone took ART's more modern linguistic subroutine and replaced it with its counterpart from the 2040's, fifty years before the present time.
  • Plant Aliens: Not technically, but the Zoa are quite similar to plants.
  • Starfish Aliens: Later on in the game you discover a race of ancient Martian beings simply called the 'Sentients'. You wouldn't recognize them as being intelligent if you weren't looking for it. They resemble floating tangles of red strings.
  • Starfish Language: The Sentients' language sounds like white noise to human ears. It can only be interpreted using Amani's visualizer, which translates it into a simple image.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Amani and ART again.