This title was reviewed and is exclusively available for PC.
39 Days to Mars is a two player co-op game developed and published by It’s Anecdotal that follows the daring gentlemen explorers, Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter as they set off on their first adventure. This is a 19th century exploration story as we’ve never seen it before, as Clarence and Albert escape to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by- I mean, the one place their countrymen have yet to explore: space!
VisualsThe artistic style of 39 Days to Mars is simple but very effective. The sepia tones and clean lines help to create a calm, almost antiquated atmosphere. The overall design in regards to the characters and environments is charming, with little nods to the oh-so British origins of the two intrepid travellers – perhaps most notably (and classically), the teapot taking centre stage in the space ship. The ship itself is almost reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle, with layers of rooms seemingly held together by whimsy and not much else, the occasional plume of smoke indicating that something has gone terribly wrong with the rackety but charming (and appropriately named) HMS Fearful.
Something that truly stands out about 39 Days to Mars is its utterly gorgeous soundtrack. Relaxing, melodic and utterly appropriate for the laid back playstyle of the game, this is a soundtrack that I’ll be listening to again. The gentle piano instrumentals help to create the special atmosphere that 39 Days to Mars has perfected; a strange but wonderful blend of old timey Victorian steampunk merged with the awe and excitement of space exploration. I don’t quite know how this works, but it really, really does.
Another great use of sound in this game is the fact that 39 Days to Mars features dialogue that is fully voice acted – and perhaps surprisingly, the voice acting is actually pretty solid. The plummy accents and the ongoing commentary from Clarence and Albert really helps to lift the quality of the game and add to the atmosphere created by the visuals and the instrumental soundtrack. But more than just adding to the vibe of the game, the spoken dialogue allows you to get a real feel for the personalities of the two explorers, and their comments on what is happening around them are often both helpful and hilarious.
The maiden voyage of the coal powered space ship, the HMS Fearful, goes about as well as you would expect, and in order to proceed (and keep the ship from falling apart around you) there are a number of intricate puzzles that you need to solve (and even a few enemies to deal with, though in my mind they take a back seat to the brain teasers). Now, this game is clearly advertised as a two person co-op and unfortunately I ended up having to play through in solo (something no one tells you about adulthood is that your friends almost never have the same schedule as you).
Playing through this game in solo was… tricky. I am not the most coordinated of people on a good day, and so the enjoyably challenging puzzles became a fairly constant mockery of my inability to press buttons in different ways and drag the mouse at the same time. Playing in solo, you also sadly miss out on one of your daring adventurers and are instead joined by a computer operated cat; which, don’t get me wrong, is pretty cool. But it’s just not the same and I feel that the story and characters were lesser for being experienced through solo mode. Eventually I ended up swapping to duo, after dragging a very unwilling friend to play (yes, I know, this is all very sad, someone crack out a violin) and though the gameplay was still challenging, I instantly enjoyed the game more simply because of the presence of both Albert and Clarence.
Though 39 Days to Mars is quite a short game, the gameplay is enjoyable and the atmosphere created by the visual style, the beautiful instrumentals and the character design and dialogue make this something unique and worthwhile. I do think the game could have benefited from an Unravel Two like system of swapping between characters in terms of playing solo, but honestly, it’s not like the advertising isn’t clear about this being a co-op game. This game is absolutely one to pick up for a short but enjoyable time with a friend and my advice to you is to play this the way it’s meant to be played; with someone else. The length of the game makes me think it should probably be picked up when on sale, but honestly I’m a sucker for a game with some charm to it and 39 Days to Mars is about as charming as Victorian era British explorers can ever hope to get.