Cydonia: Mars - The First Manned Mission, is a prerendered panoramic point-and-click adventure game, created by Aneiva Interactive and published by DreamCatcher Interactive in September 1998. The game also was rereleased in October 1999 as Lightbringer: The Next Giant Leap for Mankind.
In the year 2012, Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war and depleted resources, leaving the planet unable to support life. Forced to retreat into space, humankind now faces the need for a new planet to settle on, and that planet is Mars. With the presence of a giant face recently found on its surface, you and two other astronauts are sent in the lander Prometheus to investigate the site and find a way to make Mars safe for colonization. But on entering the planet's atmosphere, the ship crash-lands due to a strange EMP field, and things get more complicated from there.
This game contains examples of:
- Alternate Landmark History: The game's title is based on the face-shaped Cydonia Mensae landmark photographed by the Viking I orbiter in 1976. Here, the face houses an alien building, among several others nearby.
- Ancient Astronauts: The Brainframe explains that the people on Mars were helped by another alien species thousands of years ago, whom had set up the various structures to help the Martians achieve peace. It also mentions that Stonehenge and the Pyramids on Earth were built for the same purpose.
- After the End: Earth is in ruins and mankind is adrift in space, and they will slowly die out without a colony.
- Artistic License Space: Being made in the 90s, the game classifies Pluto as a planet.
- Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Entering the Time Stream is implied to be this, according to the Brainframe, where time is viewed in another dimension as cycles of events repeating infinitely. A portion of the Martian people did this before the rest died with the planet.
- Cool Car: You get to operate a rover-like hovercraft to navigate the Martian landscape, complete with a robot arm and jump jets.
- Cool Spaceship: The Capstone, at the tip of the PentaPyramid. By solving the 5 trials and acquiring the right power source, this UFO-shaped craft can travel at warp speed, by using the Sun to travel back in time to when Mars was filled with life.
- Dialogue Tree: Occasionally, you can ask certain characters questions, and their responses are recorded in your suit computer.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: the three Rings of Light, which activate a device of great power capable of terraforming Mars and making it habitable again.
- Drone of Dread: Heard when accessing your helmet computer.
- Featureless Protagonist: Although your astronaut character sometimes appears in third-person during movement scenes, their face is never shown, and your questions are not voiced compared to the people you meet.
- First-Person Snapshooter: You can take pictures with your suit's camera, and even export them to your hard drive.
- It's Up to You: Because of the crash, your commander ends up with a broken leg from debris, and the copilot having leaked an indeterminate amount of oxygen, leaving them unable to follow you in the hovercraft.
- Multiple Endings
- You can shut off the EMP field using a code from the past, and install the 3 rings to start the terraforming process that allows mankind to settle there and rebuild.
- Or you can just lower the EMP field and leave prematurely, forcing mankind to cope with living in Mars' arid environment for the rest of their lives.
- No OSHA Compliance: The Face on Mars has a long spiraling staircase that floats in midair without handrails, and each of the 5 tests in the PentaPyramid are accessed by precarious stone walkways over a bottomless pit.
- Pixel Hunt: One of the last puzzles of the game involves finding 13 pieces of a pyramid, hidden in a small grassy area in the early Mars time period.
- Songs in the Key of Lock: In the early Mars time period, you have to blow a series of horns in the right order to summon an alien whale.
- Starfish Language: The various writings found in the game are written in "aUI", a symbolic language meant to enable communication between species. Luckily, your helmet computer comes with a translator and dictionary that can decrypt it, and spoken language has English subtitles.
- The Three Trials: The PentaPyramid temple contains five puzzles based on the five levels of the Martian caste system.
- Timed Mission: At the start, you have a short time limit to dump the lander's fuel before it ignites and blows up the ship.
- Threshold Guardians: After solving a group of puzzles to gain the first two rings of Light, the Ambassador appears as this, only offering the third if you prove that mankind can be trusted to not repeat the mistakes that happened on Earth.
- Wetware CPU: Submerged in a greenish fluid, the control source for the EMP field is a sentient organic structure called the "Brainframe". It also provides a healthy amount of backstory for what Mars used to be like.