Mars Power Industries – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: 7A Games
Published By: Sonka
Release Date: November 15, 2019
2019 has been another solid year of puzzle games for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo itself set the standard when it surprise dropped an unexpected new twist on a classic with Tetris 99 to push the popularity of it’s online service, combining battle royale with Tetris. We’ve also had Baba Is You and She Remembered Caterpillars, both memorably named and both excellent puzzle games.
Now from Polish developer 7A Games is a new puzzle game born out of an idea they had at a Global Game Jam in 2018. The group of 4 friends then spent the next 6 months fleshing out the idea and released Mars Power Industries for iOS, then shortly after for Android and Steam. After moderate success, it now arrives on Switch with the help of Polish publisher Sonka.
Mars Power Industries is a puzzle game set on Mars, where you must provide power or water to each colony by correctly placing electricity masts or water pumps. Each level takes place on a 4×5 grid, and you have 5 moves or less to place the masts or pumps correctly which can only be placed on certain spaces on the grid. There’s no time limit, no scoring system and you have unlimited attempts to make your moves including the ability to undo your moves. However as you progress through the levels, you encounter obstacles such as spikes that appear after certain moves you make or particular terrain on the grid where it’s impossible to build your mast or pump.
As you progress you are provided with additional mast or pump types as well as additional tools, such as being able to shift a space on the grid in a certain direction. You are shown each mast or pump type and tool on the left of the screen in a predetermined order so you can see what you can use next. You place each of these on the grid by pressing A and remove each by pressing B. There are no touchscreen controls which is a bit strange with this initially being a mobile game, but the controls are simple and work just fine.
The game does a good job of introducing new gameplay features. It will introduce a new feature and ask you to apply it in a relatively simple situation in the level its introduced to help you get to grips with it. The game will then challenge you to apply what you’ve learnt in more complex ways in subsequent levels.
Each level is a year in time and as the years pass as you work your way through the levels, the mood and the music changes. The music itself is perfect at setting in you a sense that something sinister may be afoot, and the game has a dark secret it is yet to reveal. But as you progress you see occasional and very brief post level cutscenes which try to build a story, however these only succeed in providing intrigue without providing the payoff of clarity.
Fortunately the unintelligible story doesn’t detract from the overall experience. It’s simple and stripped back concepts provide a relaxing experience knowing you can take your time and be methodical, or try every combination of possibilities you can think of until you get it right. However there is an inconsistency to level order. At times you will find yourself stumped on one level for a while then breeze through the next few levels with ease before coming up against another challenging level. Some of the levels appearing later on in the game are surprisingly easy, when you would expect to be tested on everything you’ve learned up to that point. Throughout the difficulty curve is more like a sine wave, rather than something more typically exponential.
Visually the pixel art 2D style is quite simple but attractive. With this being a port of a mobile game, it looks right at home in handheld mode. Each level grid takes up the middle section of the screen, with a mysterious cloud around the edges that looks like it may engulf the entire screen at some point.
It will take you a few hours to get to the end but there are optional objectives in some levels to complete to unlock extra levels. Levels are not procedural so once you complete everything there maybe isn’t much to come back for. But for puzzle fans this is quite a laid back and enjoyable experience. It may not quite be up there with the aforementioned puzzle games on Switch but still well worth seeking out for your next puzzle game fix.