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Martian Gothic: Unification
Survival horror titles tend to be less scary the older they get – they still retain some impact, but the ageing graphics can sometimes have a direct impact on how immersed you become in the game’s world.
Martian Gothic: Unification doesn’t suffer as much as you’d expect in this regard though, mainly due to the game’s slower paced nature.
It starts off with a fairly long opening cutscene, which sees a three person rescue team being sent into a Mars space base to investigate why nothing has been heard by its crew for ten months.
It’s a predicable set-up, but that doesn’t make the amount of effort that’s gone into the game’s presentation any less impressive.
The music is dripping with dread, and the opening voiceover sets the dark and foreboding tone rather well.
You’re then thrown into the game proper, and you have a choice of three characters to swap between – Kenzo, Matlock and Karne.
Each character has entered the base at different doors, mainly due to their instructions to ‘stay alone – stay alive.’ Yes, that’s possibly the worst reason ever to have characters split up, but it does mark the game out as being a little bit different.
This is mainly as you can only progress to certain areas by co-operating with your colleagues by, for example, sending each other relevant items using delivery tubes (or ‘vac-tubes’) and opening doors for the others by using computers in your section.
The game is also aided a great deal by the decent voiceover work and a solid script that helps maintain your interest – although there are exceptions to this.
Kenzo talks like he’s on dope for example (just listen to entries 42 and 13 on this Youtube list for a sample), and he does ruin the atmosphere a little as a result – the way he calmly reports seeing a floating reanimated corpse is ridiculous.
But by and large, the script is well crafted, and you’ll be surprised at how much work that’s gone into it. There are several audio logs from members of the now departed crew, and each character has realms of voiced dialogue.
The game doesn’t even look too bad nowadays, mainly due to its Resident Evil style rendered backdrops with fixed perspectives.
There’s very little movement in each screen – but that actually works in the game’s favour, as it’s even scarier when the infected humans drag themselves into view.
Despite the game’s admirable qualities – of which it has several – it’s a little too frustrating to be enjoyable though (perhaps being enjoyable isn’t the aim of a survival horror title, but you get the point).
One minor problem are the awkward rotate and move controls which can make avoiding the re-possessed humans and various beasts a struggle (the constantly changing perspectives when you’re going from place to place doesn’t help), but more problematic is the occasionally confusing design.
With three characters the possibility to miss something vital is tripled, and the unhelpful map doesn’t help matters.
Some of the puzzles also have overly vague solutions, and you can often be wandering aimlessly looking for the right item or clue – this isn’t ideal when enemies re-spawn constantly. The fact there are very few complete guides to the game tells its own story.
As a result, there are probably very few people who will enjoy Martian Gothic: Unification nowadays – but if you have the patience of a saint you may be able to savour the game’s finer qualities, namely its plot and script.