39 Days to Mars is a game which I’d not heard of until a few weeks ago, despite originally launching back in April 2018 on the PC after a successful Kickstarter in 2014. It’s a co-operative enforced game which lets you both play with another local player or on your own, ala Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons style, with both thumbsticks. I played through the game solo, to begin with, but then grabbed a mate to play through it again – needless to say, the experience was so much better with another person involved – also slightly more frustrating.
Don’t be distracted by 39 Days to Mars‘ cute visuals and innocent look, the puzzles it presents you with will challenge you and the teamwork required can lead to heated arguments almost at the level of Overcooked 2! It may not be the longest journey to Mars, but it sure is a memorable and entertaining one. So, let’s take a closer look…
You are Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter, two explorers from the 19th century who wish to travel to Mars in their ‘ship’, the HMS Fearful. Whether you’re playing on your own or with another person locally, you must keep your ship afloat, as you sail to the distant planet, by solving puzzles, fixing your ship, and keeping our energetic protagonists fueled with tea and scones. Although this may not sound like a troublesome or frustrating journey, I imagine you’ve heard the saying, “too many cooks spoil the broth…”.
In order to maintain order and keep the ship on course, you must work flawlessly with your partner (either your left hand or another human) and become one as each protagonist apparently only has the use of one of their arms – I imagine the other is holding a cup of tea.
The journey itself is quite fantastical, not only because you’re literally flying through the sky in a customised ship (as in a boat), on your way to Mars, but due to the things you’ll see and creatures you encounter along the way. However, it’s a lovely little journey which would be great for a parent to play with their child or two siblings to sit down and play together, as long as neither of them suffers from anger issues as the game can lead to arguments!
39 Days to Mars can be played both solo and with another human player. When playing on your own, you’ll control Sir Albert Wickes and a feline companion during the puzzles via moving both thumbsticks (one for each character) and L2 and R2 as their individual ‘action’ buttons. When you’re playing with a human, you both control your own protagonist, both in and out of puzzles. That’s all there is to the controls, it’s a nice and simplistic game which thrives on it’s unique and team-based puzzles over complex controls and processes.
Your initial goal is to get your ship airborne, this involves searching your house, learning the various mechanics and discovering the importance of teamwork. Once you’re finally in the air, it’s all about trying to not crash and burn before you reach the red planet. The puzzles themselves are the meat of the game, requiring you to either work with your partner or your other thumb in order to solve them and move on. Some of the puzzles are fairly straight forward, such as using one ‘hand’ to operate a reel making a fishing hook go left and right, and the other operates up and down, to more complex ones such as making a cup of tea.
Have you ever played or seen those ‘hand’ simulators from a few years back, games such as Tea Party Simulator and Surgeon Simulator, well making a tea and scones is almost the same. You must make the perfect snack and beverage by following the instructions whilst moving about a physics-filled environment. When playing on your own this part isn’t too bad as you have full control over both hands as you slowly move items, pour the kettle, add sugar etc… But, if you’re playing with another person, you must both be on the same page, otherwise, you’ll end up causing chaos – it’s quite funny!
Two heads are better than one
Although the game is 100% playable on your own thanks to the dual-stick control method, the game is clearly made for two people to play together. This is why, once I’d finished it on my own, I went to a mates house and played it with them. 39 Days to Mars is a very sociable game, it requires you to constantly talk to your partner, work together, help each other out, and interact with each other more than you would in other games.
Although I’ve likened the game to other co-op family games, such as Overcooked 2, this game is a lot more casual and relaxing as there are no timers in the majority of the puzzles and each one is easy enough to solve. This means that you can go at your own pace and enjoy the experience without rushing, even though it will only take you a few hours to make it to the end credits. Recently I’ve been really enjoying relaxing games, such as this game and the new Glass Masquerade 2, the music, atmosphere, and gameplay are perfect for short-burst gaming without concentrating too hard.
So, if you have someone else to play the game with you then you’ll probably have a little more fun than if you’re playing alone, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not fun playing on your own – because it is.
39 Days to Mars looks great in all its simplistic glory! The entire game looks like a doodle that someone has drawn on a piece of paper. I think the ship itself is procedurally generated is the layout of the various rooms have been different each time I played the game, offering a little bit of variety and uniqueness to each playthrough. Overall though, it’s nice to see an indie game go for a simplistic look which isn’t pixel-art, it helps it stand out as a fun, unique and different-looking game.
Soundwise, I really like the soundtrack. Sure, some of the music sounds like short loops but it’s really subtle, calm, relaxing, and sounds period-correct – if you know what I mean? The voice acting is also really well done, I feel the developer got the perfect cast of voice actors to voice the protagonists and the announcer. They all pull off nice and clean British Accents, even though they may not be British actors, which sound better than what you’d usually hear in American TV shows and Movies (when a non-native actor attempts the accent).
Despite being a co-op focused game, 39 Days to Mars is fun to play both with another person or on your own. The puzzles are all fun, creative and work well with the two-player aspect, with only a few puzzle types repeating themself as part of the humorous narrative. If playing with another human, the journey you take is more than simply trying to get to Mars, it’s all about working together and co-operating in order to overcome the obstacles thrown at you. It may only be a short experience, at around 2-3 hours, but it’s a journey you’ll remember and want to play again.
39 Days to Mars£9.79
- - Aesthetically pleasing visuals which look like a bunch of doodles that's come to life
- - Witty banter, good voice acting, and pleasant music throughout
- - The puzzles were fun to solve both on my own and with another person, although it's a lot more fun with a second player
- - Interesting story which is very whimsical and charming
- - You get to make tea and scones in order to 'fuel' our protagonists
- - I wish the game was a little longer as it was over within around two-three hours
- - Although I loved the puzzles, I would have liked a little more variety and maybe some more puzzles to stretch out the gameplay a bit more