Ever wanted to know what the lovechild of “Ecco the Dolphin” and “Tron” might look like in the form of a VR game?
If you did, firstly – you’re an unusual person, and secondly, Tigertron’s Jupiter and Mars may be your answer.
Humankind has all but abandoned its place on the planet thanks to global warming and the oceans have mostly consumed and reclaimed what they’d left behind. This game implies good riddance, and tasks twin dolphins eponymously named Jupiter and Mars, to restore nature back to its former glory and order, albeit underwater. You know, because dolphins are the true altruistic brains of the sea.
These eco-friendly sentiments aren’t necessarily on the nose, but they are apparent throughout the game – especially when coming across recognizable sunken landmarks such as the statue of liberty.
The game is playable in flat or in VR, but other than offering a more immersive experience in VR it’s all the same, albeit with an expected fidelity knock.
You control Jupiter for navigation, and Mars for the action or interactive components, and since it’s open underwater traversal you have full 360 movement much like you would in flight. These controls work well and transition through axis smoothly enough to settle any potential motion sickness.
Most of the game involves you using echolocation to mark points of interest in your surroundings, such as trapped sea creatures or sunken remains of human technology to destroy. You do this by commanding Mars, who you aren’t directly controlling to rescue or ram, depending on context.
As you proceed through the game you can unlock abilities that help you access places that were previously unreachable, such as being able to dive deeper, or break harder objects that block alternative paths.
This may be precisely the sort of gameplay that adequately passes the time for some people, but I found myself bored to tears with the lack kinetics or regular spectacle often easily achieved through the goggles.
The graphics are very simple in VR, taking a bit of a knock to standard flat gaming as expected which already relied on simple geometry with stylized neon detail.
That said, there are occasional moments that stand out, such as when you’re sharing the space with an enormous whale or recognisable landmark.
A patch has been released now, but when I first booted up the game on PS4 Pro the neon visuals exacerbated the lack of edge refinement and it was a difficult game to look at, even though I could tell there were some nice visuals behind the mediocre post-treatment of it. Thankfully this has been improved via patch on pro, but assuming regular ps4 owners are out of luck.
The music is ethereal and somewhat inspiring, with diegetic blips and warbles of muffled underwater acoustics playing the soundtrack out like a soothing bedtime sleep inducer. It’s all quite pleasant.
There isn’t really too much to Jupiter and Mars, and really it’s just a relaxing, chilled-out ride through an underwater environment. You won’t feel like you’re achieving much or progressing through anything of substance but catharsis is mostly the point here.
Eve though this is definitely not my jam, others may appreciate its subdued quality – I’d only ask whether for this purpose it’s worth going through the untangling and calibration rigmarole of a PSVR unit. Just have a lie down and listen to Enya instead.
Released: May 2019
Platforms: PSVR, PlayStation 4
Genre: Virtual Reality, Puzzle