Game: Caverns of Mars: Recharged
Genre: Action, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), Xbox, Atari VCS and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: AdamVision Studios, SneakyBox | Atari
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $9.99 | UK £8.09 | EU € 9,99
Release Date: March 9th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Uber Strategist PR
Remade, Refueled, Recharged
The Recharged series of games from Atari is not some tacky energy drink people are rioting to get from their local supermarket. Nope, it is a pleasant retro revival of older games, given a graphical update and polish. One of my favourite parts of the series is how lesser-known titles are given another chance to shine much like today’s review. Caverns of Mars was originally released on the Atari 800 computer.
The premise was to travel down through a series of caverns in a spaceship, avoid hitting the walls and shoot targets whilst keeping your fuel topped up. After a few levels you reach the reactor core where you plant a bomb, then reverse course and escape. A simple yet entertaining formula that has been given some modern improvements in today’s Recharged version.
Traverse the Caverns
So what’s different about the Recharged edition turns out to be quite a lot. To start, the gameplay has been given a massive overhaul. The basic premise of flying down through the caverns shooting enemies, and monitoring your fuel consumption is still present. Power-ups, including fuel and new weapons, now float in the air instead of sitting on platforms. The ship’s movement itself feels much faster and more fluid. Left alone, you fall like a heavy rock but shoot your gun, and this will cause you to temporarily hover in the air. Remember, you can’t rely on this as the actions cost you fuel. If this totally runs out, your ship will proceed to free fall unless you can grab a fuel power up on the way down.
The most notable and welcome change to the game’s design is the environment is completely destructible. If you can’t quite make it around a tight corner, you can just shoot yourself a path through the level. Some weapons are more effective than others. The laser can make the most devastating holes but takes a while to recharge, whilst a gyro shot shoots in the direction your ship points making it better at taking out specific enemy targets but less effective at destroying terrain. Grabbing a new weapon also heals a health point so switching out regularly is sometimes a good strategy.
Pick Up Perks
Once you finish a level, you can pick one of three perks to improve your stats at a cost. An example includes improving your health but reducing your fuel capacity. The drawback I found with this is the perks felt quite restricted. After just a few playthroughs, I just kept seeing the same ones with little variety in choice. It wasn’t just the same perks, though, I observed repeated enemy placements and level patterns quickly giving a sense of deja vu, showcasing a lack of variety in design. A shame, really, as the gameplay is a lot of fun.
What really surprised me is once I reached the core to plant the bomb, I didn’t get to enjoy a fast daring escape out of the caverns. No, the game just ended with rolling credits, which was quite a disappointment. You can head back into the arcade mode to obtain a higher score and blast your success online. Other than that, you can indulge in some shorter missions, which usually see you finishing a level with one select weapon. For some reason, in the menus, you’re not actually given a description of each mission, just a picture and title to effectively guess. The most noticeable feature is you can play the game and its challenges in local co-op, something always welcome for those looking for a good game night game.
The Journey of Alex
As to be expected, the plot is practically non-existent; this is a simple arcade game, after all. Once you start, you’re already in your spaceship, making your way through the caverns. For some reason, I envisioned a plot where I was playing as a pilot, Alex, a rogue smuggler trying to make some money on the black market to pay for his child’s health care for a rare space disease. But Alex got captured by the military on a mission and was given the choice of prison or the chance to be pardoned so long as he completed one mission. Fly through the caverns of Mars and plant a bomb. Of course, I came up with more depth than that to the plot, but then I remembered this is an arcade game, and I really should keep it short.
Unlike many of the Recharged games, Caverns of Mars ditches the neon look and goes for its own design. The level design is pitch black with orange and red scrolling backgrounds, appropriately reflecting the Mars-like setting. Its simplicity suits the arcade feel, with enemies and collectables easy to identify. Megan McDuffee once again lends her audio talents to the soundtrack; her other works include the River City Girls series. It appears she has a hand in most of the Recharged series, which is not bad. For the most part, the game ran well in TV and handheld modes. Performance slowed with explosions but seemed to work better when I turned the vibration and screen shakedown.
Caverns of Mars: Recharged is another worthy entry in the Recharged series. A quick pick-up and play arcade fun that will cost less than a trip back in time and a night out at the old 80s arcade. Plus, this has the added benefit of playing with a loved one, something that’s become a running theme in this series but is always welcome for local co-op fans.
I liked my time with this title, but the experience feels like it stops a bit short in places and could use some extra development. This includes more level variation and upgrades and even an endless mode. As it stands, this is a decent arcade game. You may play a few times but might not return once you have had your fill.
Final Verdict: I Like it