Jupiter & Mars is a first person view atmospheric adventure title developed and published by Tigertron. While it’s a brief experience, and could use a few extra features, it acts as a great stepping stone for helping players learn more about the ocean, how the waste we produce affects it and how it could still affect it long after we’re gone.
In Jupiter & Mars, players take control of the titular dolphin Jupiter, with her AI partner Mars always by her side, as they save sea creatures and shut down the last remaining harmful remnants of human civilization in order to restore the ocean to its former glory. Controls are simple and easy to learn, so trying to move around each location is relatively straightforward and I never had any issue in this respect.
Jupiter can use her enhanced echolocation to examine her surroundings, locating breakable objects and obstacles. This ability temporarily gives the surrounding of these items and areas neon outlines. Jupiter can also use her vortex ring ability to help sea creatures affected by human waste, while Mars can break certain objects and obstacles with his head, gaining more strength as the game progresses. When commanding Mars to break something the input rarely feels slow, allowing players to easily break multiple objects in succession when close enough to each other, which ends up being very useful.
While obstacles like rocks and fences are easy to get past, the energy devices dispersed throughout each level are somewhat trickier. These devices harm sea creatures with their pulsating rings of energy, so getting hit by them will push Jupiter and Mars back through the water. Usually there are special rocks and walls near these devices that the pair can use to protect themselves and stealthily approach the power generators until they’re close enough for Mars to ram into and destroy them.
These destructible devices are stationary, but there are also some smaller moving devices in later levels which are indestructible and will pulsate energy if Jupiter gets to close, providing additional challenge when trying to find a path to the generators of the stationary devices.
Unfortunately, this rather simple puzzle solving could use more variety. Throughout Jupiter & Mars, it’s the same pattern of finding a sonar device, looking for its generator, and figuring out the best way to reach it through the use of barriers and alternate paths, over and over again. Although this gameplay loop works fine, it feels less rewarding as you progress. A different kind of puzzle solving feature, perhaps such as trying to remember a pattern to input, would have added some much needed complexity to the gameplay experience.
Jupiter & Mars gain a few enhancements as they go through each area, such as the ability to swim faster through rough currents, the ability to dive into deeper areas, and the ability to traverse through much colder areas. After obtaining these abilities, they can be used in previously explored levels to find additional collectibles and sea creatures to save.
The only problem with finding these abilities and creatures is that there’s no way to know where they are and no kind of marker that leads the player to them, so they will take some time to find. Some will of course take longer to find than others due to size of levels and their layout, but I found it surprising that there aren’t different types of waypoints for different objectives. This would greatly benefit players trying to make progress, particularly for those who have are completionists.
Navigating levels in Jupiter & Mars can take some effort due to the waypoint system, which shows up as a bright spot in a center circle, but once you get used to it and understand how to properly use echolocation and search for obstacles and tunnels, navigation becomes much easier. At one point there are two different waypoints which look exactly the same which can be quite confusing for players. Luckily, this only happens briefly and it’s likely that one will be found long before the other.
The other navigation problem is that some areas can be too dark to see easily without repeatedly utilizing echolocation. At one point in a dark tunnel I got stuck due to going too far though it and not turning when meant to, which made it impossible to get out of, causing me to have to reboot the game.
Other than that one very dark cave, the graphical style and artistic direction of Jupiter & Mars is stunning. The ocean is beautiful, whether observed by natural eyes or echolocation, and it’s easy to tell that the developers put in extra work to make the sky look gorgeous as well. The small amount of land seen throughout the game aren’t very detailed, but this pales to everything else filling the ocean.
Since the whole idea of Jupiter & Mars was developed from the lyrics of a Frank Sinatra song, it’s no surprise that one aspect that stands out is the music. It ranges from upbeat, to relaxing, and even intense in later levels. The only problem is that if players get lost the music stops for a little while and then starts again, and there’s only one or two tracks for each level, so this can become tedious and irritating if you get confused about where to go.
Overall, Jupiter & Mars is a brief yet enjoyable experience of atmospheric underwater exploration game. It feels like it is missing the depth that would have made it even grander, but succeeds in its mission of warning us of the dire future of the ocean if we don’t do what we can to help take care of it (the game also includes additional information about the organizations it partnered with during development for those looking to get involved).