Martian Gothic: Unification is a 2000 Survival Horror game. The original Windows 95 version was the last game developed by Creative Reality. A PlayStation port was released by Take-Two Interactive the following year.
A Martian base called Vita 1 has gone silent, with its last contact with Earth consisting of a single message: "Stay alone. Stay alive." The player takes the role of three investigators: Kenzo Uji, a "techno-zen hippy" and man-machine interface specialist; Martin Karne, a security expert and former soldier; and Diane Matlock, a microbiologist. Shortly after their arrival on Mars, the three characters are split up, and investigating the base requires you to switch between them.
When the team arrives, they find the base is filled with corpses, many of which are frozen solid despite the base being maintained at a comfortable temperature. By searching for logs, notes, and voice recorders, the team slowly pieces together what happened in Vita 1, which is a slow-burning story of corporate greed, alien technologies, and an ancient artifact.
The game was made with a very small team on a very tight schedule, and the final version reflects this.
Martian Gothic provides examples of:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Set, somewhat optimistically, in June 2019.
- Advancing Wall of Doom: The TriMorphs act as this, especially before you get your hands on the flare gun. Make the wrong move, take too long, or make any mistake really and you're toast instantly.
- Apocalyptic Log: Naturally.
- Arc Words: "Stay alone. Stay alive."
- Black Dude Dies First: It's heavily implied that Martin fails to make it back to the shuttle at the end of the game regardless of how quickly you reach the objective.
- Body Horror: The TriMorphs were once three separate people. Each one was previously unfortunate enough to act as a host to three separate strains of bacteria released from within the Necropolis, specifically the tomb of the Kurakarak matriarch. When one host comes into close proximity to another their strains of bacteria attract, forming a freakish monster in the process. You can clearly make out the heads and some of the limbs of the hosts within the biomass, some of it dangling as the creature lumbers towards you.
- Bottomless Pits: The Necropolis is littered with these, often requiring careful movement to avoid them. And unlike most survival horror games, you can actually fall into them.
- Camera Screw: There are plenty of these, often obscuring entire sections of playable areas. The Necropolis is lousy with these instances. There is a specific example of this effect in the game where it often leads to your character's death: When you're in the room with the TriMorph guarding the spectrometer, there is a door in the middle of the room that you have to get through in order to reach safety. When you attempt to go there, the TriMorph will lunge toward you. The camera angles change quite radically two times during the process of getting past the door, which will likely cause you to get killed by said TriMorph.
- Dissonant Serenity: Kenzo acts extremely calm about most things going on around him. One of the first things he encounters in the game is a floating corpse that speaks directly into his mind, and his reaction amounts to "huh, interesting". Even his teammates think his calmness is weird. When the man says he's zen, he ain't kidding.
- Dull Surprise: It seems as though Kenzo being "zen" was put in to Hand Wave how his voice actor just sounds like a guy reading dialogue most of the time, with little in the way of inflection or emotion.
- Dummied Out:
- After you place the explosives on the fissure and you race toward the escape shuttle, you're likely to see a short scene of Queen Mab/The Matriarch coming out of her tomb. Apparently, this was supposed to be the one boss fight in the game. However, even if you go where she appeared, you will not encounter her because her theoretical boss battle was never implemented.
- Cut dialogue implying multiple endings indicate you were originally able to choose which of the three protagonists remained behind and sacrificed themselves so the other two can launch the shuttle and escape. In the final game, Karne ends up doing the Heroic Sacrifice no matter what.
- Eldritch Location: The Necropolis in spades. From the sheer darkness of it all (only made visible with night vision goggles you are required to pick up) to the bizarre architecture, and finally to the fact that it serves as one big tomb for the Kurakarak, including its matriarch who has influence over current events in the game.
- Flare Gun: After you have gone through hell multiple times, dodging certain death at the hands of several of the game's TriMorphs, you will get one of these. It's the only weapon in the game that can deal with these monstrosities.
- Game-Breaking Bug: The PC version has a particularly frustrating one. When Matlock is supposed to race against a TriMorph in the vent, a shutter inside of the vent is supposed to close right after Matlock passes through, which ensures her survival. If you don't get the game's (one and only) official patch, then the TriMorph is able to pass through the same shutter as if it weren't even there. You die every single time.
- Hell Is That Noise: TriMorphs utter menacing howling noises (for the PlayStation version) or ominous growling not unlike that of a large animal (for the PC version), which can be heard when you're outside of the rooms they inhabit. This can catch you off guard when you bring Matlock toward the Medbay room in the beginning.
- Invincible Minor Minion: The Non-Dead are a take on this. You can take them out of commission for varying lengths of time, but they will always eventually rise again.
- Inside a Computer System: Kenzo can "mesh" with the base supercomputer called MOOD, allowing him to enter a virtual reality resembling how he envisions his home to be. In this virtual reality, he must interact with a rock that serves as a means to interface with ventilation systems, which is vital for the survival of one of his teammates.
- Jump Scare:
- The musical cue that plays when a non-dead grabs you.
- Pretty much any encounter with a TriMorph. When Karne encounters the TriMorph hanging from the ceiling near the air filtration room, it serves as an early example.
- Kill It with Fire: TriMorphs can only be killed with a flare-gun, which can be found later in the game, and requires you to circumvent several of them in order to get it.
- Magical Computer: Along with the tropes Benevolent A.I., Expositron9000 and Omniscient Database, MOOD is the base supercomputer who can be interacted with and spoken to. Kenzo has the better time of this because of his ability to work with computers of her kind, so she's the most open with him. She actually has a complete personality matrix rather than a limited set of code, and is fully aware of everything going on in the base and the Necropolis, which reveals her It Can Think qualities. Kenzo can ask her about nearly anything pertinent to the game, and she'll provide an answer, sometimes being intentionally vague about it but she's definitely trying to help no less. She's apathetic to Matlock and seems to harbor a grudge of sorts against Karne, given that he is hiding something from everyone else. And given that she's the narrator of the game, it is implied at the ending cinematic that she's now able to explore the deep of space, possibly hinting at having some kind of physical vessel to do so, giving her the potential to fulfil the Omniscient Database.
- Oh, Crap!: Should more than one of the characters be present in the same room within a certain distance (before you make an antidote for their infection, that is), they will clump together forming one of the game's enemies, the TriMorph. The reactions of the player characters during the transformation sequence reflects how terrifying the process must be.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Rupert Degas, who provides the voice for Martin Karne, is from Great Britain. Martin Karne is supposedly an American character. You can sometimes make out his actual accent in his dialogue.
- One-Hit Kill: TriMorphs do this to you when they get too close.
- Our Zombies Are Different: "Non-deads" walk at the same pace as the player and cannot be permanently destroyed. They're also "cold as freezers" as Matlock describes them, and it's implied that they're controlled by a sort of hive-mind.
- Save Scumming: Averted. There are terminals with the game Martian Mayhem, which is a broken game that serves as a place to save the game. Since you can only save at the terminals, it makes the game trickier. In the PlayStation version of the game, you can save up to 12 times per terminal. In the PC version, you can save up to 2 to 4 times per terminal. There is also a laptop in the game (found in the Necropolis) that lets you save anywhere, which is a nice addition to the game.
- Scare Chord: Whenever a zombie grabs you, the game plays a very loud musical cue. It's the single loudest sound you'll hear anywhere in the game.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Queen Mab/The Matriarch and the bacteria that has plagued Vita base is an example. Once the research team opened up her sarcophagus, the bacteria quickly infected their numbers. Meanwhile, it would go on to make Queen Mab subconsciously aware of the goings-on in and around Vita 1 base.
- Sole Survivor: It turns out not all of Vita Base was wiped out, as the base doctor is still alive and hiding in the infirmary. Unfortunately, he's gone insane and his attempts to communicate and help have to be translated through a lens of madness.
- Survival Horror: Martian Gothic has a heavier focus on puzzles and exploration than most other contemporaneous horror games, but it wears its influences on its sleeve. Many enemies cannot be permanently killed, resources are often scarce, and Diane can synthesize medical supplies, but you have to free her from the airlock first.
- Tank Controls: This game features particularly egregious tank controls. Characters rotate slowly (and the animation is awkward), their running speed is more akin to a steady jog, it takes roughly a second for them to pick up speed, and running & turning is more akin to trying to rotate an old shopping cart. This can make it hard to get out of tight spaces and navigate some of the environments. And then you will have to outmanoeuvre the TriMorphs, which kill you instantly should you screw up. You likely will, no thanks to the controls.
- Teamwork Puzzle Game: With the added twist that your characters cannot meet or the game will end.
- Title Drop: Near the end of the game when you finally reach the ancient tomb, Kenzo dubs its architectural style "Martian gothic".
- The Virus: Of the bacterial variety. Encoded with the memories of the ancient aliens that populated Mars, said aliens are in effect attacking humans by infecting them with three different strains of bacteria that jump into action when they get close enough, causing the hosts to form into hideous monstrosities serving the whims of the aliens. The player characters become infected with these strains of bacteria, one each, and that's why you cannot allow each character to get too close and must act as a team.