JCB Pioneer: Mars Switch Review01/01/2019
Trey Parker and Matt Stones Team America are one of my favourite comedies ever made. That soundtrack gets me pumped EVERY TIME. The whimsical humour being the focal point that goes into every project the pair works on, from South Park to films like Orgasmo and of course to Team America. The pair is not shy about ribbing celebrities either, and in the case of Team America, Matt Damon! Don’t lie to yourself, if you saw that movie, the second you read Matt Damon’s name, you said IT. Much to the demise of Mr Damon’s acting career of course, when he would go on to act in very serious roles, all I could picture was him running into scenes screaming “MATT DAAAAMOONN!” This tradition would be no different when I saw 2015’s The Martian, which is actually a fine film. The film is about Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney is along on the planets Mars. He must utilize what resources he can to survive the unknown elements of the red planet. Now I know you must be asking yourself why the hell I am talking about Matt Damon’s acting career when this is a game review for JCB Pioneer Mars. The answer is simple, “MATT DAAAAAAMOOOON!”
As far as the story is concerned, the year is 2067 and you, our nameless and faceless hero, nominate yourself to go to Mars to set up the foundations to colonize the planet. You wake up on the planets surface surrounded by wreckage and you must set out to utilize the resources of your crashed ship as well as what little the planet has to offer to set up your colonize to survive, sounds familiar right? This very familiar scenario led me to name my astronaut Mark and from time to time I would blurt out, you guessed it, “MATT DAAAAAMOON!”
How the game came to be is interesting to me. As far as the title of the game is concerned, JCB is all over the game, from the name of currency to all the vehicles in the game. What some people may not know is that JCB is a real-life company that makes industrial construction vehicles from bulldozers to defence loaders. They work with construction companies, agricultural as well as the military! The game was developed by Indie developer Atomicom with technical advisement from European astrophysicist Dr Maggie Lei. What I thought was pretty neat was that Dr Lei even decided to part of the game itself. She can be seen as your digital advisor, she talks to you and will generally point you in the right direction to complete your objectives.
So how does the gameplay? Well, I will be honest, the game is pretty slow. For some people, that will be an immediate turn-off. There are no points where I got into high-octane gun battles like I was playing Borderlands. There are no 200mph racing scenes. Think of the game like the Mudrunner series married No Mans Sky, and this game is the end result. You will have to keep an eye on the different meters to assure you don’t die. Keeping up on Oxygen, Power, Food, and Water is crucial. You will have to go about the planet salvaging what you can to grow your own base. Traversing the planet can be a bit of a slog though, your character doesn’t run particularly fast, and your JCB vehicles are not exactly Formula 1 car either. Personally, I really wish that could be changed, we are not driving around a lush green planet. There’s no beauty to marvel at, just a harsh planet full of environmental hazards ready to kill you at any chance it can. Because of that, travel in the game is one of my least favourite parts of the game, which of course is not good for a game in which travelling is most of what you will be doing in the game!
The Red Planet does not offer you the luxuries of sipping on a mojito while laying oceanside in Hawaii. Nor is it riding the college wave of thrills in Cancun. No, Mars is no vacation spot in JCB Pioneer Mars. The weather almost has a mind of its own and wants to make your stay as painful as possible. In the opening scenes of the game, you are bombarded by a meteor shower! As you are trying to establish your base, you may have to go repair your building after one of these environmental hazards. Meteor showers, sandstorms, toxic pools, and the electrical dust tornados are ever present to take you from hero to zero in the eyes of the people of Earth.
JCB Pioneer Mars is a game that fans of slower paced games will enjoy very much. It will not resonate well with fans of games such as Grand Theft Auto or Forza Horizon. The base building is interesting, but I feel the whole experience was a little lacklustre. After a pretty intense intro, I felt like the game was going to pick back up and I never felt that it did.