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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.