Everyone would like to travel to Mars, right? Well, no one more so that the dynamic duo of 39 Days to Mars, who decide on a whim that they’re going to take their steam engine ship (the HMS Fearful) on its maiden voyage to the red planet. Thankfully, they’re a pair of resourceful explorers who know their way around a problem, which is fortunate because they’re going to come across PLENTY on their thirty-nine day journey…
39 Days to Mars is a multiplayer-focused experience, though it can be played solo too. In local multiplayer (no online, sorry), both players are able to traverse the 2D environment, but when it comes to puzzle-solving they take control of a hand each. The puzzles are designed in a way where players have to control mechanics in conjunction with one another or use their hands together to manipulate objects, so having someone else to do it with is a LOT easier. When playing solo, you can control both hands at the same time. Typically, you’d think this would be the easier way to approach the game, but it feels like you’re trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time – it’s possible, but it’s very fiddly.
I do have to give the game credit for its puzzles, each of which are both unique and intricate in design. You’ll be clueless as to what you have to do when you first approach a puzzle, with a bunch of different objects or mechanisms in place for the player to potch around with – now, this might sound a little obtuse, but the experimentation aspect of the game just works and when you finally figure out what you need to do it’s incredibly satisfying. The variety of puzzles is impressive too: doing things like gathering a key with a fishing rod, unravelling a hidden keycode by manipulating a consolation-like mechanism, using a lift by co-operatively handling a rope, or even making a cup of tea are presented as complex yet enjoyable conundrums. These sort of puzzles are typically straight-forward in a traditional puzzler, but 39 Days to Mars’ unique approach makes them all the more enjoyable.
The only real problem comes with how awkward the controls can be. As mentioned, they’re fiddly when playing solo, but they can also be tricky to get on board with when trying to manipulate objects together in multiplayer too. Granted, that’s part of the game’s challenge, but there were a few moments where simply trying to work together just felt a little frustrating.
39 Days to Mars isn’t a particularly long game either, with my first playthrough with a friend taking around an hour and a half to complete – that was with some puzzles stumping us for a while too, so I could imagine that cleverer gamers may get through it a bit quicker. Players shouldn’t go into 39 Days to Mars expecting some lengthy co-op experience, but rather something that they’ll be finished with in an evening. Is that a problem? Not really, but some players may wish there was a little bit more to see on the adventure.
I’d be remiss not to mention the presentation of 39 Days to Mars, which is absolutely on point throughout. The game has an aesthetic that embraces both a Victorian and almost blueprint-like style, which fits the puzzling vibe of the experience perfectly. The music is charming throughout too, so you’ve always got a pleasant tune playing as you try in vain to get through each tricky enigma that’s thrown your way.
39 Days to Mars is a quirky and fun puzzler, but it’s definitely best experienced in multiplayer with a friend. Sure, you can solve the well-designed puzzles on your own, but it’s going to be a lot more fiddly than if you had an extra player on board to help you out. The game’s presentation is charming throughout too, with the music particularly standing out during my playthrough.
It’s not perfect though, with the awkward controls and brevity of the experience the more obvious issues that stand out. Fortunately, they’re minor issues in the grand scheme of things and they don’t stop 39 Days to Mars from being easy to recommend for puzzling fans who’ve got a friend on hand to help them out.
Developer: It’s Anecdotal
Publisher: It’s Anecdotal
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC