Martian Gothic: Unification is a fun third-person action adventure that feels a bit boring and bland at the start, but evolves into a great rollercoaster of sci-fi fun toward the end. The game is reminiscent -- some would say derivative-- of Resident Evil, a console (and later PC) hit that popularize the survival-horror subgenre of action adventure. As such, Martian Gothic offers plenty of undead (in this case, mutant scientists) to shoot at and a suitably creepy atmosphere (set inside the confines of a space station). In contrast to most Resident Evil-inspired games, however, Martian Gothic features so many interesting and welcome twists to the conventions that it rises above a typical "clone" of the genre by a few notches. The game infuses the often-simplistic survival-horror genre with more substantial adventure game-style puzzle-solving. |
First among many nice touches Martian Gothic brings to the genre is an interesting hard sci-fi plot, thanks to the involvement of acclaimed science fiction writer Stephen Marley, who wrote the script and dialogue for the game. Extrapolating from the controversial reports that scientists discovered microfossils on a Martian meteor in 1996, the story opens on a manned base on Mars in 2019. You control a search-and-rescue team of three agents, Karne, Kenzo, and Matlock, who are sent to investigate the base after communications with the base mysteriously ceased. Your job is to find out what happened, rescue all survivors, and figure out the meaning behind the base's cryptic last S.O.S. message: stay alone, stay alive.
In addition to the shoot-the-zombie gameplay common to most games of its kind, Martian Gothic's best and most fun feature is the ability to switch between the three characters at will. As in real life, you can't give an item to another character if they are not stamding near each other. As the team members start in different locations, some areas may be barred from Kenzo but not to Matlock, and so on. As your teammates search the base separately, often the only way to swap objects they find is via vacuum tubes around the halls (fans of Day of the Tentacle will recognize the concept). This makes for an interesting game, as most puzzles require co-operation among all 3 team members, and judicious use of vac tubes. For instance, Kenzo may have to saw off a dead zombie's body part in order to vac-tube it to Matlock, so she can solve a puzzle in another area of the base that will open the door for Karne. Another indication that Martian Gothic is much of an adventure than action is the fact that each character can hold up to 18 items at a time, all of which are needed to get beyond the usual assortment of broken machines and locked doors. The game might stump you at several points, which could get frustrating, and there are too many "find passcode/passkey X to open door Y" puzzles for my taste. But at its best moments, when you're assembling several obscure items to fix a computer or to revive some lab equipment, Martian Gothic is very enjoyable.
Despite some repetitive puzzles, Martian Gothic is an excellent action adventure that places a much stronger-- and more effective-- emphasis on puzzle solving. Resident Evil fans who like the game for its zombie-shooting appeal will be disappointed, as there aren't many mutants to shoot at in Martian Gothic. Adventure game fans who like horror or hard sci-fi games and don't mind combat sequences will be right at home. Despite a sluggish start, the pace picks up gradually, and the plot thickens into a great sci-fi opera, especially during the final stages when some of the stranger items you've been lugging since early in the adventure come into play, and the mystery of the dead base finally unravels. Highly recommended, and remember: stay alone, stay alive.Reviewed by: Underdogs