NASA Games Mars Rover – FB Messenger Game Review
When Curiosity marked its 4th year since landing on Mars, NASA released a game called Mars Rover to celebrate the anniversary. Curiosity is part of the agency’s Mars Exploration Program (MEP). The rovers sent to the red planet have attained rock star status, inspiring dreams of interplanetary adventures among millions of fans.
The Mars Rover game was not included in Facebook Messenger Instant Games’ original launch, and was initially only playable by downloading the app from NASA’s website. But it has surpassed most of the other original 17 Instant Games in terms of number of players (>1.7M as of writing), and this is why we’re doing a review of it ahead of other games.
Graphics and Sound
The game features a rover that looks like Curiosity, complete with a head (cameras actually), neck, body, antennas, and wheels (we absolutely hate the wheels—more on this later).
The robot moves against the backdrop of a red/orange landscape with peach-colored skies. The artwork is quite good, and it struck a good balance of giving the game a “serious cartoon” feel; it will appeal to players of all ages.
In lieu of a background music, Mars Rover has robotic sounds, beeps, and radio voices announcing “Keep goin’!” or “That was a big one!”. Very appropriate, as it emphasizes the hushed atmosphere of a planet devoid of human beings.
Mars Rover is a physics-based driving game with mechanics that are similar to the popular game Hill Climb Racing. This side-scrolling game lets you control the movement of the rover with 4 buttons. There are forward (right) and backward (left) buttons. And then there are 2 more buttons for maintaining the balance, one to tip the rover forward and another to tip it the other way.
The farther you run, the more points you get. You also get some extra points when you detect water in the ground. (Note: Searching for signs of water is one of MEP’s objectives).
The challenge is to keep the rover in an upright position while driving through the rough terrain of the planet. This is so that you avoid crashing your front or back wheels, which break very, very easily. Once the wheels break, it’s game over.
And this is why we hate them wheels.
They are the flimsiest, weakest, most fragile wheels on the planet; or to be more inclusive, in the Solar System.
Why on God’s green Earth—or God’s red Mars—would anyone build a rover with wheels that have the durability of a soda can?
It’s like treading on egg shells, except the egg shells are the wheels.
To be fair, NASA did say that Curiosity’s aluminum wheels are much more durable, and that if they “drive the rover carefully, a few holes and dings cannot stop this rover from rolling!”
Fun Factor and Replayability
People who have good fine motor skills and who like performing delicate procedures with their hands will enjoy this game. But if you have the sense of balance of an AT-AT Walker (geek alert), this game will frustrate you.
It’s still fun to keep trying and hoping you’ll reach farther the next round (they’re false hopes). But when your wheels break with every minor bump on the ground, it gets a little too discouraging to keep on playing.
The popularity of this game probably has more to do with the fame of NASA and Curiosity than the actual merits of the game.
We commend the physics of the game, as well as its graphics and SFX. But… the wheels! Have we mentioned how much we don’t like them? They could have just rewarded good driving with more points and punished bad driving with less/negative points. Anything but those frail wheels.
So yeah, we give this game a 6/10.
We’re sure there are people who disagree with this low score, and if you’re one of them, now’s your chance to defend Mars Rover and tell us our review sucks. Comment below!