Game Review #281: 39 Days to Mars (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Allan Jenks
Developer: It’s Anecdotal
Publisher: It’s Anecdotal
Category: Adventure, Multiplayer, Party, Puzzle
Release Date: 5.16.2019
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy 39 Days to Mars from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Have A Cuppa on a Hoopty
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a trip to Mars in a rickety old homemade spaceship that resembles a well-furnished treehouse from a 2-D steampunk backyard? I know, I know… silly question. Of course you have! Well, now you can experience it for yourself—or better yet, with a friend—in 39 Days to Mars, from the indie developer It’s Anecdotal.
Before you even get to the title screen, 39 Days to Mars wants you to be well aware that this game is best experienced in 2-player co-op mode, though it does have a solo mode for those of us who either don’t have any friends or don’t play well with others—or some mixture of the two, as those traits tend to run together a bit in most cases! The gameplay is the same in both co-op and solo modes, but the experience is quite different between the two.
Basically, you control your character—a proper fellow and his cat for solo mode, and a proper fellow and his proper fellow friend for co-op—by moving about your 2-D spaceship, tending to the many problems that tend to occur when your space-faring vessel is constructed about as well as the structures in Angry Birds, and you solve various different puzzles to put things back together again; but not before you’ve had a good cuppa or the perfect scone! Yes, you have your priorities, and apparently, tending to an active fire in your food supply room falls into the priority group just below having a cup of tea first.
We’ve Created the Perfect Scone!
Each of the puzzles you encounter along the way is tailored specifically to the particular crisis for which you are responding. Every puzzle is different, which I really liked, as it kept the game interesting throughout, though there are some that you have to repeat, such as making tea or scones; but each time you play a tea or scone puzzle, the order is slightly different. One instance may require that your tea have 3 lumps, no milk, and a lukewarm temperature, whereas the next go around may ask for piping hot tea with lots of milk and no sugar.
Each object with which you interact must be moved by grabbing said object with each of the available hand icons. In solo mode, you control both hands, one with the left stick and one with the right stick. You must press the L1 or R1 button, respective to each stick, to grab the object and move it. The tricky part is coordinating the two hands with enough precision to make it do what you want; for example, if you want to move a pad of butter to the scone with the provided knife, you have to have one hand grabbing the back handle end of the knife, while at the same time using the other hand to move the blade end, and you have to keep the knife level while moving it toward the scone, otherwise the butter will roll off of the knife and you have to start over. It’s a very precision-oriented type of gameplay that really makes you hone those fine motor skills.
Better Enjoyed With a Friend?
I really enjoyed solo mode for the challenge it provided, but I just kept thinking about co-op mode, and how in the world I was going to do when I could no longer non-verbally communicate my desired actions to myself and had to actually coordinate with another human being. I also knew that this other human being was likely going to be my wife. I honestly feared for my marriage with this one, but I went ahead and gave co-op a try anyway, since the game would not shut up about how good it was! I was pleasantly surprised by the results. My wife and I were able to work together amicably—for the most part—and make the awkward 3-legged-race of a game that is 39 Days to Mars into an incredibly fun experience.
Before we knew it, 2 hours had passed, and it barely felt like 30 minutes. One of the benefits of having two players is that you can both work on either the same thing or different things during each puzzle. If a scone calls for 4 strawberries and 9 redcurrants, for instance, you can each grab one and cut the time in half that it takes to move them all to the scone. The frustrating parts were still entertaining, and just added to the fun of the overall experience, though I think I may still prefer solo mode, just because it’s a bit more relaxing that way!
In Space, No One Can Hear Your Tea
The soundtrack is tastefully done, with some solid sound effects like explosions, glass clinking noises during tea, and great voiceover work. The music playing quietly in the background is more for proper ambience than anything, and just sort of blends itself in without much fuss; but it fits well and sets the appropriate tone and mood.
The visual style of this game is unique, in that it is designed to be minimalistic, but is actually quite polished and visually pleasing. The world of 39 Days to Mars is a 2-D one, with hand-drawn, stick-figure-type art for everything. The spaceship area, which is where you spend all of your time outside of completing the puzzles, is set up to look almost like a piece of parchment paper with drawings on it. The puzzles are the same, but rather than having that parchment yellow to it, the puzzles and puzzle pieces are mostly set to a pure black-and-white theme with occasional pops of color.
We’ve Come to the End of Our Journey
Overall, 39 Days to Mars exceeded my expectations with regard to fun factor and gameplay. I figured it would be a relatively amusing time-killer, but it turned out to be a great little puzzle game that I was actually able to enjoy in local co-op just as much as solo. I will say, the game really pushes for you to play co-op, so much so that even when the last time I played was in solo mode, it still brings “Continue co-op journey” up as the first option at the title screen when you start it back up. I think this sort of almost discredits the fun that can be had in solo mode though, as it almost feels like you’re being slightly judged for wanting to go solo—that’s probably more me projecting about not having enough friends to play with though! At the end of the day though, this is a great game, and I would absolutely recommend adding it to your library if you are a fan of puzzle games, cheeky British humor, couch co-op, or any combination thereof. Go forth, and start your own journey to Mars!
Buy 39 Days to Mars from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Indie Bros. on behalf of It's Anecdotal