At E3 2018, Tigertron revealed Jupiter & Mars, a game that follows two dolphins in an underwater Earth apparently set after some sort of apocalypse. Now, we have a new underwater world to explore, one that might make people feel nostalgic for the days of Ecco the Dolphin. It is the sort of title that blends genres, pulling in elements that make it feel as much like an opportunity to swim through an ocean as it is to find collectibles, help members of the community, and help the two dolphins reach new areas.
Jupiter & Mars begins in a biome called Sunpool, which is relatively uncomplicated. The two dolphins, Jupiter and Mars, each have their own abilities and skills. Players directly control Jupiter, who can blow Vortex Rings to incapacitate and push away hostile forces or communicate peacefully with and aid other sealife. She also can use echolocation to map out the immediate vicinity. Mars, the AI controlled companion, can be directed to ram items like shells, rocks, and manmade barriers to find collectibles or open ways to new areas. The first hour or so is an opportunity to see their strengths and weaknesses as you get accustomed to this new sort of life and learn to use the map in the upper left corner that provides a general idea of where the duo should be headed.
It is in these earliest moments that Jupiter & Mars might feel familiar. Though they are large, underwater mammals, we don’t have to worry about an air meter. Instead, the two can explore and interact with the world. For example, one early, optional task is to have Jupiter blow Vortex Rings at crabs she sees with the square button. A mother sea turtle is worried about her babies who have gotten tangled up in plastics left behind after the world flooded. By using the Vortex Rings, you can help free the five baby turtles. In another nearby space, some manta rays have gotten trapped in sludge. Again, Vortex Rings can help the get their bearings and escape.
The echolocation also feels like a more technical approach to a concept once seen in Ecco the Dolphin. Sunpool is a well-lit biome. If a person wanted, they could even take Jupiter up to the surface to see the sky and what is above the water. Things are relatively well-lit. Yet, in this early area, pressing the cross button to use Jupiter’s sonar highlights areas with neon outlines of everything nearby. Hostile sea life will have a reddish hue filled in, while creatures you can aid or collect will have filled in, friendlier colors. While you can see environmental details without echolocation in these bright spots, using sonar brings things to life and offers this additional definition. This is especially handy in tight spots and becomes essential in underwater coves. Though, if someone is taking in the sights while getting a feel for an area, it might help take in remnants of the lost world, like a sunken ship.
Sunpool even provides people with their first look at Jupiter & Mars‘ puzzles. One early challenge introduces a less pleasant reminder of Earth’s past. Some of the machines left behind by humans are still functional. One of the first the two dolphins will encounter sends out a signal that will send them back and force them out of an area if they are exposed to it. Given this is the beginning of their journey, this is entirely new to both the dolphins and the player. To get around it and reach the next area, people need to use echolocation and pay attention to the environment to see the best way to get around this device, without succumbing to the signal it is sending out in about ten second intervals.
While a lot of Jupiter & Mars feels like you come in equipped with everything you need to handle life under the sea, the dolphins also develop as characters. They get stronger on their journey, and there are multiple places in Sunpool where the game hints at things to come. For example, there is a trench Jupiter and Mars may pass when looking for collectibles and helping the baby sea turtles. If you approach it in these early moments, the game will tell you that you are not strong enough to swim through those currents. In another segment, you enter a cave. If you try to head downward instead of moving straight on through, you will be told that you aren’t capable of diving down there yet. The dolphins grow as individuals in Jupiter & Mars. It almost feels like a Metroidvania approach to underwater exploration.
Jupiter & Mars dabbles in different genres, blending gameplay elements to provide different opportunities. People who remember Sega’s Ecco the Dolphin series may look at how Tigertron used echolocation and sonar to offer a new approach to exploring environments, finding points of interest, and interacting with other underwater inhabitants with dolphins. It also provides a sense of purpose in areas, by giving people friendly creatures to help and environmental puzzles to solve. If people really take the time to look around, they’ll even see hints at new places they might one day get to visit when Jupiter and Mars are up to it. It seems like there is a lot going on, even in Jupiter & Mars‘ early hours.
Jupiter & Mars will come to the PlayStation 4 on April 22, 2019. It is PlayStation VR compatible.