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You’re stranded on Mars, but you’re not alone – can you dig it?

You’re a miner called Ridley, and you’ve crash-landed on Mars. Deep beneath the surface of the seemingly dead planet, there are secrets waiting to be unearthed. Or should that be… unmarsed?

Stop messing about with your jetpack and get to work through that portal.

Stop messing about with your jetpack and get to work through that portal.

As you might expect, Mines of Mars features digging – and lots of it. You start the game with just a jetpack, your trusty pickaxe and a pistol. A glowing portal sends you deep underground, and after that you’re pretty much on our own.

To explore, you have to excavate your way through the Martian rock, one chunk at a time. You’ll come across minerals and gemstones, and as you dig them up, they’re automatically added to your inventory.

You can dig sideways and downwards, but to remove blocks overhead or while hovering, you blast them with  your gun. However, this can rapidly deplete your precious ammo, so it’s best to use it sparingly – after all, you might not be the only one down here.

As you dig downwards, your jetpack gives you the means of getting back to the portal and thus back to the surface. But fuel is also limited, so at first it’s best not to stray too far; if you run out, the game will drop you back at the mining station, but you’ll lose any ore or gems you’ve collected.

Whenever your mining bin is full, you head back to the surface where you can smelt the ore into ingots and cut the gemstones into jewels.

He who smelt it dealt it...

He who smelt it dealt it…

Crafty business

Eventually you’ll gather enough resources to be able to craft new equipment, like tougher armor, better guns, a bigger mining bin, and so on. You’ll also be able to craft new portals, giving you quick access to different areas of the mine, which is vital in your quest to reveal the secrets of this forgotten world.

And so the cycle continues, digging, exploring and crafting, which in turn speeds up exploration and so on. As you travel deeper into the bowels of the red planet, so you begin to find relics of a long-forgotten civilization, as well as the inhabitants of this subterranean world. Some creatures are harmless, but a few will attack and that’s where your gun comes in handy. Some of the larger monsters are guarding items that are fundamental to your quest.

There are lots of upgrades on offer, but finding the right resources can take ages.

There are lots of upgrades on offer, but finding the right resources can take ages.

A game with real depth

The gameplay of Mines of Mars isn’t entirely unique, borrowing elements from the ancient puzzle game Boulder Dash, not to mention similar mining-inspired games, like I Dig It or Motherload. But it certainly has an abundance of atmosphere, with its limited, claustrophobic field of view, and a growing sense of unease as you travel farther and farther from the safety of the portal.

But much as we tried to enjoy it (and it has had us hooked for a while), the game feels really unbalanced. It took far too long to be able to craft the first item, and after many hours of mining it feels like we’ve ground to a halt.

The lack of a map or any basic guidance is a serious oversight, as it’s way too easy to get lost in the labyrinthine paths that you make. And repeatedly losing your hard-mined materials is frustrating – especially given the game’s crafting demands.

Mysterious Martian artifacts are the key to unlocking new areas.

Mysterious Martian artifacts are the key to unlocking new areas.

If you don’t mind the grind and can overlook the game’s faults (the minuscule text for example, or a bugged ‘Offering Pit’ that just gobbles up your gems and offers nothing in return), there’s a lasting challenge to be had here. The mining is oddly addictive, and discovering a new vein of minerals or an ancient artifact is actually quite exciting. But for us, the relentless routine of mining isn’t quite worth the meager rewards.

App Store Download button

Price: $4.99/£2.99

Size: 89.7 MB

Version: 1.0.4

Platform: iOS Universal

Developer: Crescent Moon Games

Mines of Mars Review: Digging, Blasting and Crafting in 2D
“For all its flaws, Mines of Mars is actually quite addictive. But with a few tweaks it could have been brilliant”
  • Atmospheric
  • Intricate plot
  • Serious time investment
  • Underwhelming rewards
3.5Overall Score