Ever thought that what a virtual reality (VR) videogame based on Mars needs is a little slice of home, not a nice tree or a cute bunny rabbit but a hulking great white shark? No? Well developer AR Glimpse most certainly did and in absurd B-movie fashion Sharks of Mars: Prologue delivers on that premise with a slice of sci-fi action wrapped up with red sand, lasers and lots of teeth.
If the idea instantly conjures up thoughts of Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus or Sharknado then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the team previously created augmented reality (AR) title Sharknado: ShARkmented Reality. Sharks of Mars: Prologue does feature a thin plot about mega corporations trying to colonise the planet and the poor sods who’ve made the journey suddenly finding themselves in a hostile environment with even more hostile flying sharks – yes they fly – who also seem to be cybernetically enhanced. Now you’re intrigued aren’t you?
This initial release is a single mission where you have to escape the planet surface before you become lunch, killing anything in your path with a ray gun as well as solving a couple of easy puzzles. Mars being the barren, desolate planet that it is doesn’t exactly offer a gorgeous environment so the studio has managed to give the title a surprisingly creepy atmosphere with mist-like plains and shadowy sharks ‘swimming’ around in the distance. As bizarre as it is, seeing a shiver of sharks on Mars presents quite the image.
The ray gun is your only means of defence offering a single green shot which can then be upgraded for a short while via various clips found around the environment. These are fairly standard upgrades such as rapid-fire, sniper and a slow moving explosive. Sharks of Mars: Prologue employs a magnetic grab to easily pick them up and once spent, they instantly drop allowing you to pick another from your belt – which can store three.
The sharks themselves tend not to pose too much of a problem individually as they’ll slowly move directly towards you mouths agape. Which would make for boring gameplay if it wasn’t for the fact that when alerted in groups they try to flank you, meaning you can suddenly find yourself surrounded by some very hungry looking beasts. Adding to this is the complete lack of sound they make unless at the point of death, there’s no spatial audio to alert you to their presence. Both annoying and disturbing in equal measure when one unexpectedly appears overhead.
Sharks of Mars: Prologue biggest weakness though isn’t dealing with flying sharks, they’re actually funny, it’s the locomotion which really grinds. There’s only smooth movement – no teleportation folks – which is just too slow, impeding the action in the process. Forward movement is a little lacklustre – needs to have a run function – but strafing cuts the speed in half. So there’s just no way of avoiding the sharks at close range. The issue becomes genuinely noticeable after completing the second puzzle where some heavy metal drops and loads of sharks are unleashed. It should (and could) be a battle of epic proportions if it didn’t feel like a leisurely, Sunday afternoon stroll with your 90-year old gran.
Despite the ludicrous plot Sharks of Mars: Prologue has the potential to be one of those weird ideas that shouldn’t work but somehow does. Mechanics like the ray gun and puzzles were well constructed and easy to operate, plus the visual style and attention to detail was spot on. It does desperately need to be a bit sprightlier (or have the option to) or else the action element becomes muted. What VRFocus really wants to know, are there more than just sharks on Mars?