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39 Days to Mars Review

39 Days to Mars, developed and published by It’s Anecdotal, is an indie two-player couch co-op puzzle adventure where you guide two steampunk explorers on their journey to Mars. You solve puzzles to help the explorers leave their home, board their ship, adventure through space, and land on mars. The puzzles are simple, but they require strategy from both players and you have to be able to work together. You can play 39 Days to Mars in a single sitting (two to four hours, depending on your ability to solve puzzles).

The game is a puzzle in itself

You are given absolutely no instructions on how to play outside of the basic controls, so you figure out how to play as you go along. While this can be a bit frustrating at first, it’s actually a clever move. Playing the game is part of the puzzle. As you figure out what you’re supposed to do next, where to stand, and how to complete objectives, you learn the play style. This prepares you for completing the puzzle challenges that are presented throughout the storyline.

The puzzles are fun

To complete specific objectives, such as leaving your house to go to your spaceship, you have to solve a variety of two-player puzzles. By completing the puzzles, you unlock equipment, such as keys, or make necessary repairs to broken equipment. Completing the puzzles is necessary to progress through the storyline. Sometimes there is an option to skip a particular puzzle if it doesn’t need to be completed immediately, such as constructing a map, but you will be required to return to it eventually to progress.

The puzzles are fun and simple. If the puzzle genre is your thing, you’ll enjoy the puzzles and the required strategizing. I played 39 Days to Mars with two different people to compare play styles and reactions to the puzzles. One friend, who loves playing puzzle titles, was able to quickly figure out the puzzles and really enjoyed 39 Days to Mars. She absolutely loved it and wanted to replay it immediately to see if she could finish the puzzles faster or if they changed at all.

I also played it with my husband. We like to play puzzle titles together, but the genre isn’t our forte. Some of the puzzles took us a little more time to solve, and a few were slightly frustrating, but we were able to enjoy 39 Days to Mars together nonetheless. There were moments of laughter, tears, celebration, and frustrated mutterings; we loved it.

Game length and replayability

There is a certain element of replayability that keeps 39 Days to Mars entertaining, despite its short playthrough length. When you play the title a second time, some of the puzzles change. The storyline and required puzzles remain the same, but some of the puzzles have different solutions. Additionally, the layout of the ship changes, so the equipment and puzzle locations that you have to find will change, adding a slight change of pace to gameplay.

It’s also enjoyable to replay and see if you can conquer puzzles faster than your previous attempts. This is especially true for some of the later puzzles at the end of the storyline. (I won’t give spoilers.) Depending on how well you handle yourself during the last challenges, the end dialogue and visit to Mars can change, too.

Single-player mode

There is also a single-player mode that allows you to play by yourself. Rather than play as two different explorers, you play as a single explorer and his cat. The controls are a little different, as you play both parts in each puzzle, but it is possible. If you’d rather play 39 Days to Mars by yourself, this is a viable and entertaining option. However, it lacks the co-op nature of figuring out puzzles with another person, which for some people is half the fun (myself included).

Graphics

The graphics are a combination of 2D animation and monochromatic colors with cartoonized stick figures. It’s different for an adventure title, which 39 Days to Mars is considered a part of, but it’s a great match. It allows for simple gameplay without detracting from the puzzles. It also allows for exquisite pen-like details for the world. It keeps the play area clean during puzzle sections, but it also highlights the steampunk tribute of the two 19th century explorers going to Mars.

Controller Connections

As 39 Days to Mars is a couch co-op and has full controller support, I tried a few different controller combinations to see how the controls and gameplay changed. Unfortunately, there were difficulties in playing with two different Steam controllers at the same time. 39 Days to Mars didn’t read that two controllers were plugged in, despite the Steam client recognizing both of them.

However, 39 Days to Mars worked well on the other controller combinations we tried. We comboed a Steam controller with both a Logitech controller and an Xbox 360 controller, and both combinations worked well.

39 Days to Mars did crash when we initially plugged in the Xbox 360 controller and the Steam controller together, but this has been something we’ve seen in other titles. Another option we tried was pairing a controller with the computer keyboard and mouse. While we were able to play with this setup, the keyboard and mouse felt more restrictive in movement compared to using a controller in two-player mode. However, the keyboard and mouse was very effective with character movement in single-player.

7

The Verdict: Great

39 Days to Mars is a title worth playing and then replaying to master the puzzles and beat your previous attempts. It incorporates an engaging story with strategies that are enjoyable for a couch co-op. If you like two-player titles or solving puzzles, then this one is worth a try.

Cherise Papa
Written by
April 30, 2018
Published in Adventure

Cherise Papa is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for writing novels and playing games. With a thirst for lore and massive damage, she heals raids, conquers civilizations, smashes things with two-handed weapons, tames dinosaurs, and eats other snakes. Accompanied by her husband and gamer toddlers, she explores new worlds and logs too many hours on Steam. Her gaming drink of choice is rich hot chocolate with peppermint candy canes, mint chocolate chip ice cream, or handfuls of marshmallows. 

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