Deliver Us Mars takes franchise to new heights with unique climbing system

Deliver Us Mars screenshot showing a martian landscapeKeoken Interactive

Deliver Us Mars, developer Keoken’s sequel to Deliver Us The Moon is an intriguing adventure that marries environmental storytelling with a freeform climbing system and puzzles to build a sense of tension – even without combat. 

In our hands-on preview we jumped, climbed, and puzzled our way through a pair of levels, but it’s the questions each asked that have us itching to play more when the game arrives in 2023.

Astronaut-in-training

Deliver Us Mars screenshot showing a crashed spaceshipKeoken Interactive

As all good space colony stories go, Deliver Us Mars paints a troubling and all-too-familiar future for humanity on Earth. With devastating weather and depleting resources, humanity looks to the stars.

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This sequel to Deliver Us To The Moon is set 10 years after the conclusion of that story, and picks up with Kathy Johanson, an astronaut-in-training working to retrieve the ARKs. These huge vessels took off into space but were co-opted by Outward, an organization of unknown intent. Worse still, Kathy’s father Isaac played a key role in the ARK abduction.

Many videogame protagonists are blank slates, but Kathy is determined to find out what happened with her father and the ARK, even if she’s not always upfront with those around her. That makes her immediately more interesting, and nuanced, than many, including the nameless protagonist of the first game.

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Deliver Us Mars screenshot showing a laser puzzKeoken Interactive

It doesn’t hurt that the 2001: A Space Odyssey influences from the prequel are back, and Deliver Us Mars certainly leans into them deeply with a spherical robotic companion and a mix of sterile environments that feel quintessentially sci-fi in the best way.

Those environments also offer some startling discoveries in a narrative sense, as Kathy and her robotic companion piece together what happened to the ARK, its crew, and her father. We won’t spoil anything here, but it’d be fair to say that all was not well for the colonists, and more detail can be teased out by recreating scenes.

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That’s done through puzzles, and in lieu of combat, players can expect plenty of ’em. One sequence had us linking control panels to doors with laser beams, and while things started simply it didn’t take long for Deliver Us Mars to add new wrinkles that certainly had us stroking our chin in our space helmet.

Moving up

Deliver Us Mars screenshot showing a martian landscapeKeoken Interactive

Our favorite part of Deliver Us Mars, though, is its approach to scaling vertical surfaces. While Kathy is able to run, jump, and use a small laser cutter, many of the game’s locales have a series of climbable walls.

It takes some time to get used to because Kathy’s left and right limbs (and the climbing axes in her hands) are essentially controlled independently. You’ll need to attach yourself to a surface first, and then maintain a grip on one side while moving her across precarious gaps and sinking the axes into the next section.

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Deliver Us Mars screenshot showing climbingKeoken Interactive

One wrong button press (or click, in this instance), could see her drop to her death, and while initial animations look a little rigid, the entire process just clicks after minutes. It’s like a much more demanding version of Modern Warfare 2009’s Cliffhanger mission, and it makes Nathan Drake’s effortless vaulting, leaping, and clambering look a bit too easy by comparison.

It’s elevated by an orchestral score that feels equal parts epic and serene, with frequent swells giving way to lengthy pauses that accentuate the biggest moments.

Final Thoughts

In our time with Deliver Us Mars it became clear that developer Keoken is setting its sights higher than its prior voyage.

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We’ll have to wait until February to find out if the rest of the game is as interesting as this slice was, but we’re excited to find out.

Deliver Us Mars launches on February 2, 2023.