39 Days to Mars Review
39 Days to Mars Review
It’s lonely in space. Grab a friend by the hand and puzzle your way to Mars in this cooperative adventure by It’s Anecdotal.
Posted: 05/07/18 | Category: Review | Developer: It’s Anecdotal | Publisher: It’s Anecdotal | Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac

Genre: Cooperative Steam-Punk Puzzler
Release Date: April 25, 2018
Platform: Windows, Mac, SteamOS + Linux

Where is that 3rd Hand When I Need It? 

Just Adventure first started covering 39 Days to Mars when a Kickstarter campaign was launched in 2014. Recently, we provided summary information about the game and the development studio in our article Blast Off in 39 Days to Mars

The trailer looked quite intriguing so I jumped in with both feet as the game was released. It is a “local cooperative” adventure meaning that it is designed for two people, sitting at the same machine. In my “local life,” I am sorely lacking when it comes to friends who are gamers. As it turns out, 39 Days to Mars supports a single player mode using an AI cat as a companion. I’m not a fan of cats, but I put my personal bias aside and joined Sir Albert on his adventure.

As the game loaded, I was warned that playing by myself would be suboptimal. Now there’s an understatement! As a single player, you need slightly more than two hands. Although the controls for single player utilize the same controller for human and cat, the map did not seem to work as expected with my Steam controller. Thus, my primary control of the human was the mouse and my secondary control of the cat was the keyboard. You move and click the mouse while simultaneously using the WASD and pressing the E key. Since most puzzles require actions by both Sir Albert and the cat, it began to feel a bit like playing the piano (a skill which I never quite mastered).


If I Only Had a Friend 

Although I am not sure I would encourage anyone to take on 39 Days to Mars as a solo adventure, it is a delightful game and I will not let my own three-handed dexterity (or lack thereof) color this review.

To summarize, the story takes place in the Victorian Era in the spring of 1876. Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter set out to pilot the HMS Fearful on her maiden voyage to Mars. The problem is that the ship is not exactly “space-worthy” and requires some serious repairs and maintenance along the way. The clock is ticking and you must effectively manage onboard events to reach Mars safely within your allotted 39 days.

The artwork is done in a hand-drawn, pen-and-ink style with sepia tones. Played from a 3rd person perspective, players control Sir Albert and his companion (human or cat) as they prepare for the journey, board the ship, and set off for Mars. The animation is clean and simple, with icons indicating active areas. A single click moves you to a location, and a click-and-hold is used to activate puzzles and tasks.

There is a limited amount of dialog. The voiceovers are performed in delightfully British accents accompanied by a melodious piano score and spot-on sound effects. Overall, it is an enchanting game experience.

39 Days and Counting  

39 Days to Mars begins at Sir Albert’s house and you are acclimated to the interface by some simple puzzles to assemble a shredded map, retrieve your top hat, and fish for a gate key. Once you board the HMS Fearful, things begin going wrong at an alarming rate and each crisis is a puzzle that must be dealt with. These include an invasion by baby squids, broken pipes, incomplete circuits, and an attack by a giant squid. Worst of all, you are running out of coal and must ride a bicycle into space and use an articulated arm to retrieve coal in a spinning, timed sequence. As a single player, this particular exercise was my downfall. As I failed on multiple coal runs, my days-in-space counter continued to roll ahead, oblivious to my lack of progress. It appeared that making it to Mars was not in my future.

With adequate coal to power the HMS Fearful, your journey continues and the final obstacle is guiding the ship through an extensive asteroid belt without crashing.


A Cuppa, Anyone?  

In true British tradition, our space travelers cannot proceed through a day without a cup of tea. You are presented with the elements (hot water, sugar, cream, a tea bag, and ice) and a description of the requirements.

Your job is to combine unmarked ingredients (is that a sugar cube or an ice cube?) to create the perfect cup of tea. A mistake results in the tea being rejected and you get to try again. While making tea is not so bad the first few times, our space travelers’ addiction wears thin over time. I lost count of how many cups of tea I brewed.

In summary, 39 Days to Mars is a charming game for two people who can work together in carefully choreographed coordination. The puzzles and the juxtaposition of advanced space travel with 19th century technology keep the game interesting. Besides, who knew that giant squids inhabited the road to Mars?

Delightful artwork, melodious piano music, and pleasing voiceovers
+ Puzzles that are mechanically challenging but not difficult to solve
+ One of the few adventure games that can be played cooperatively
Very tricky controls for a single player
- Game clock marches forward at an alarming rate – 39 Days is not much time!
- "Just say NO" does not apply to requests for a cuppa!

System Requirements

MINIMUM Windows:
OS: Windows XP
Processor: 1.7 GHz Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 256 MB VRAM
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 650 MB available space
Additional Notes: Gamepad(s) recommended
OS: MacOS 10.8
Processor: 1.7 GHz Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 256 MB VRAM
Storage: 650 MB available space
Additional Notes: Gamepad(s) recommended
MINIMUM SteamOS + Linux:
OS: Ubuntu 16 or higher
Processor: 1.7 GHz Core 2 Duo
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 256 MB VRAM
Storage: 650 MB available space
Additional Notes: Gamepad(s) recommended
Specials from Digital Download
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