Printed Mars

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Printed Mars Game Poster Image
Quirky postapocalyptic adventure is both fun, confusing.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

This is a very abstract game, with not many more messages than awareness of your surroundings, not giving up hope, staying curious. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Protagonist tries to help others in his environment but also steals, snoops, spies.

Ease of Play

Simple controls; easy to learn.

Violence

You can get shot at, though there's no blood. There are some bloody, pixelated, decapitated bodies strewn about world.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

You'll pick up some plants; jokes about, references to getting "wasted." 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Printed Mars is a downloadable adventure game. It's not necessarily great for kids because it leaves you to your own devices, with very few hints or even indications of where you should be going, much less what you should be doing. Language isn't so much a concern, but the "you figure it out!" approach to the game will of course be polarizing. Though you can get shot at, there's no blood, and players will stumble upon some bloody decapitated bodies, but that's the extent of the violence. There are also some jokes about getting wasted.

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What's it about?

PRINTED MARS is a "post-colony postapocalyptic" game that takes place on Mars. You wake up in a cave with no idea where or who you are, trying to piece together what happened by collecting clues and information from people's memories, hacking terminals strewn about the landscape, and -- weird as it may sound -- tending to livestock. You'll hide from headless robots and guards that will shoot you on sight and eventually uncover the Golden Mars Bible, which you must work to decode if you want to understand any of this. 

Is it any good?

This is a very strange game that's intentionally terse and unhelpful, though so beautiful and charmingly written that it's worth sticking with -- especially since, if you really don't want to, you don't have to pay for the game. (Though you should donate some money, since a game this strange and interesting has been made by one person completely of his own volition.) As such, it's hard to chart this on a good/bad binary, since this is a quirky game that's kind of both at the same time. The challenge and vagueness about where you should be going, when, and why is going to be a huge deterrent for players less familiar with the genre, and even aficionados are likely to be turned off by the sheer amount of rope you're given: From the outset, when you wake up, you can pretty much go anywhere you want to. But knowing why and what to do is completely up to you. For example, you may go a few hours before you realize you were given the password for an important terminal early in the game. You may also acquire a lot of items such as mushrooms and keys without knowing where or how to use them.

Of course, you'll know what your tolerance for confusion is and should know there's plenty of it with this game. But the weird, warped, decaying VHS visuals are truly stunning. Plus, the terse few sentences characters say are jarringly charming and funny -- in contrast with the bleak, though pretty landscapes -- so it makes the experience of stumbling around much more palatable. You won't always be stumbling in Printed Mars, but you definitely will be spending a lot of your time in that mode.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the apocalypse. Why is this such a favorite setting for so many stories? 

  • Talk about space. Do other cultures and intelligent creatures exist on other planets? 

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $Pay what you want
  • Pricing structure: Free to Try
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Vladimir Storm
  • Release date: August 26, 2015
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions

For kids who love adventure

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