We’ve been keeping tabs on Crescent Moon GamesMines of Mars [$4.99] since we first caught wind of it nearly a year ago. Now, after over a year of development, we’ve finally got our hands on WickyWare’s mining adventure. The wait may have been long, but it’s well worth it as Mines of Mars is an excellent adventure that does a great job melding open-world exploration with a cohesive quest-driven story.

Sent off to the planet of Mars, you play the role of an experienced miner dispatched to the Red Planet to, well, mine the hell out of it. After an emergency landing however, you stumble upon a desolate mining town on top of the ruins of an ancient civilization. While the prime directive is to mine, soon afterwards you discover that there’s a bit more here than meets the eye, and that’s when Mines gets pretty interesting.

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Best summed up as a Metroidvania mining adventure, Mines of Mars offers a lot of freedom in terms of reaching objectives with the understanding that you’ll have to craft certain pieces of equipment to advance. For example, the introductory section offers loads of simple gems and minerals, which will allow you to purchase upgrades to your mining suit which will let you advance further in to dig up better gems to craft even more upgrades, and so on. Reaching deeper regions unveils more of the story told through cryptic cutscenes, as well as new monsters and, eventually, bosses. It’s pseudo-open world experience that starts off slow but picks up with the more time you invest in it.

As you’d expect, mining in Mars is the number one activity that you’ll do. Thankfully, the developers have done a great job streamlining and making it an enjoyable experience. Controls are hidden with mining rocks is as simple as running up to them and picking away (touch and moving the left side of the screen controls movement). It’s a simplified system that works well on the small screen. Early pickaxes are a slow affair, but like the rest of the game, faster and stronger options are available with the right crafting tools.

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I really enjoyed the mining aspects of Mines of Mars. Sure, at some points it was a slow, methodical affair, but for me it offered almost a serene experience (most likely due to the awesome music). I also appreciated the sense of adventure in exploring new veins as well as the potential to get lost if you don’t keep track of your whereabouts. Ambience is an element that is overlooked way too often in iOS adventure titles, but Mines of Mars nails it. It’s why tasks as simple as just mining random veins in a corner of the depths is so enjoyable.

Mining is the most important element in Mars, but another aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is the combat. Enemies in Mines of Mars are diverse and even a little bit scary (mainly due to the limited field of vision). Granted, enemies are actually somewhat rare in Mines of Mars, which I think also increases the tension when you actually encounter them. Thankfully, combat in Mines of Mars is just as streamlined and easy to use as mining, with the right side of the screen controlling an aiming reticle with a delayed auto-shot. Aiming with this kind of mechanism isn’t as precise as I’d like, but it works well enough for the game.

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There’s a lot of things that Mines of Mars does right but I think what really makes it work is how well its paced. There’s plenty of mineral veins generously spaced out, and by the time you get to a point where an upgrade is required, odds are you have the resources necessary to craft it. In addition, enemies are also difficult enough to offer a challenge, but rare enough that one isn’t concerned too much with dying. The story is just interesting enough that the little bits and pieces dropped kept me very interested in going further. Combine this with the inherent appeal of underground exploration and Mines of Mars had a tendency to grab ahold of me for just one more mineral run.

It’s amazing how careful attention to details such as music, ambience, pacing and story can take a decent gameplay experience and transform it into a great adventure. The folks at Wicky Ware have done just that, with Mines of Mars being a highly enjoyable melding of exploration and combat wrapped around a side-scrolling mining adventure. I highly recommend iOS gamers give this one a whirl.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • ZeroVoid

    I keep seeing the word metroidvania thrown around with this game, and those are some of my favourite types of games.

    What's the ratio of mining vs. metroidvania elements to it? I love the latter and find the former pretty boring.

    • pkmaximum

      Agreed, mining and crafting sounds boring. Metroidvania though is my kind of game :)

      • Josh Presseisen

        the game has dark corridors with treasures that are guarded by huge bosses. you need to find a way into these by unlocking these large statues which grant you access. that and some of the weapon upgrades, and the atmosphere are the metroid inspired parts of the game, I would say.

      • pkmaximum

        Thanks for the reply, I'm definitely going to be trying this game out and leave feedback in the App Store!

    • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

      You mine to get new gear and thus allowing you to reach further advancing on the story. Along the way you discover monsters, discover secret areas and more (don't want to spoil). I would say mining is a big part of the game but never becomes repetitive as you are always advancing at a good pace.

      Please note that I only played for few hours so far.

  • Amenbrother

    What a game man....

  • speedyph

    LOVE DIS GAME

  • andylangers

    Picked this up this morning and had a quick look, seems pretty sweet but will be trying it out properly later

  • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

    Same with Out There. Didn't know what I was getting into but Im glad I bought this, its pretty awesome. Mars is a great place to be right now.

  • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

    Same with Out There. Didnt know what it was until I bough it and so glad I did, its awesome. Mars is a great place to be right now. Loving it

  • Geertyy

    Just wondering what the negatives are of this game. What made the reviewer not give that last half star? (He rated it 4.5/5)

    • dancefirst

      Agree completely--why the missing 1/2 for such a glowing review?

  • geno11233

    How good is the story??

  • Jay G

    Man, I hope this ends up on Steam. That's blasphemy around here, I know, but I do. I just can't get into this kind of game on a small screen.

    • Christian Valentin

      Game's been Greenlit. It'll be on Steam eventually

      • Jay G

        :D

  • DenzilofDojima

    Sounds like an iOS steamworld dig.

  • TrencH

    I am looking forward to this game but I am going to say that some of the item management in games like Junk Jack and Terreria are just daunting to me. I love exploration and challenge but too much item management or mixing to make items just takes the wind out of my sails. I hope I got I wrong thinking that this game is like those.

    FYI - I plan to play more Junk Jack x now that I have a ipad mini but playing them both (especially Terreria) was a exercise in frustration on the iphone. Misclicks and hunting for the right stuff to get started was really rough.

    Steamworld Dig for the 3DS was a great balance of exploration and hunting. Terreria I wanted to like so bad but controls were hard on my phone and I got really lost in how to get started in it. It was just overwhelming.

    Btw: I love Metroid and Castlevania.. so if this game is a lot like those two games I am all in! (Especially SNES Metroid and PS Castlevania Symphony of the Night.

    • Nick

      Steamworld was the exact thing I went to when I saw this review. That was a heck of an amazing game.

  • jar0d

    The game looks great and I really like Crecent Moon games. The review however fells very thin to me for a 4.5 star review. Graphics? Sound? Controls? iPad vs iPhone screen size? How about the mining aspect. Any info if this is a good game if you can't stand minecraft / terraria / junk jack x but interested in the setting and the story? What about walking mars? Also an exploring game - on mars - without the mining stuff. I don't know. I will probably give this a try but not because of the review but because of the comments in the forum. Like I said. This review feels pretty thin. The bug heroes 2 review was way better and complete IMO for such a high star review.

  • yoshthug

    Five stars all day long!!!

  • dyscode

    Is this somewhat comparable to I Dig It ( Explorations)?

    • dyscode

      Expeditions! I mean :)

  • geno11233

    I take it there is 0 story to this game.

  • MrMuggz

    The one game that I absolutely LOVE for IOS in this genre is Miner Disturbance by Jagex. It was released in 2010. It's based on an older Java based game but has updated graphics, excellent gameplay, and a really fun game overall. Sadly, I don't think it's been updated in years so after I played through it I've never gone back to play it more. I wish another game closer to Miner Disturbance was released. I'd post a URL but I don't think you're allowed to post URL's in the comments. Just do a Google search for "Miner Disturbance iPhone."

  • mzinn

    Hmm $4.99. Think they should have started at a lower price & got a good buzz going about the game.

  • epsilon5000

    Grr....the offering pit has a glitch. I dumped all my ingots and gems on there to see how much it would raise my chances of getting an item only to find that when I left the pit (having not made an offer), none of it was returned to me. All that time I sank into repetitively mining - gone, just like that. Can't justify doing it all again. Deleting this one...

  • Lohengriehn

    TA tends to overrate games recently. Please return to your qualities! This game is 3/5 at best.

  • mzinn

    Pretty cool game but crashes. Playing lots of huge games & no crash. This one crashing 1/4 of the time. Very frustrating. Even after clean cold reboot it can crash. Usually right after i either find or mine a great location of course. Argh!

  • bigjack66

    It's annoying all you do is mine dirt then die in some cave monster killing. Possibly the most useless shotgun in gaming history.

  • 61050

    are the bosses really hard, or do i need to use something other than the starting pistol?

  • http://www.myglasseye.net owen

    I don't really get why the reviewer labels this as a 'Metroidvania' style game. It's absolutely nothing like those games, in pretty much any way you can possibly think of. Okay, it's side-scrolling and you move around in passages. That's about it.

    What this is is an almost complete re-skinning of I Dig It, with occasional need to shoot things, using a completely rubbish aiming/firing system. It's fun, it's atmospheric, but it's absolutely nothing like Metroid or Castlevania.

  • Dirk Zuber-Goos

    Has anybody figured out, if you can mine upwards and sidewards if there's nothing for you to stand on? So far, I've only been able to mine downwards and sideways while staying on the ground. But man, I love this game!

    • Anotherkellydown

      You can shoot blocks with your guns. Also upgrading your boots slows you to flip gravity slowing you to mine upwards.

      • Anotherkellydown

        Slows=allows slowing=allowing. Sorry, I blame auto correct!

Mines of Mars Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4.5