The survival horror game that should have been sent to the moon

matian gothic cover

Released for the PC just at the turn of the millennium and ported to the Playstation 1 a year later (and a year after the Playstation 2 was released), Martian Gothic is one of the worst Resident Evil rip-off games ever. I don’t know how I got through it the first time, and I barely made it through a replay for this blog. It took me months. MONTHS. There were weekends I made excuses not to play. There were weekends I started and gave up just because it’s that unpleasant. And it’s not even scary. It’s just fucking annoying. Even the music, which seems scary at first, becomes obnoxious because it’s not used with purpose—it plays randomly instead of to intensify jump scares or to create atmosphere at given moments.

The plot is simple. You are a team of three people sent to investigate a base on Mars that has fallen silent. Once there, you discover everyone has been turned into zombies, you are now all infected, and you need to find a cure and get the hell of that base.

martian gothic desert grave

Back in the days when classic survival horror was all the rage (before Resident Evil 4 ruined survival horror forever) I scooped up every game I could get, including this one. First I got the PS1 version, but before even playing it, I scored a copy of the PC version knowing it would have tighter graphics. Problem is the PC version essentially never worked. There were patches released, but even trying to get it to run properly with those was a headache, so I never managed to play it through on a computer. Which is a shame, because it really did look way better on the PC, and supposedly there is much more of an ending that is completely left off the PS1 version (which is absolutely atrocious as is).

martian gothic hotel area

So what makes this game so bad? EVERYTHING. First of all, I can guarantee you will not get through this game without a walkthrough telling you what to do at all times, for so many different reasons. Second, you will probably not get through it without a GameShark. Remember GameShark? There’s a reason they made cheat systems back in the days of the PS1 and PS2. Hell, they’d even release codes that you could simply punch in with your controller because PS1 & PS2 games were made so poorly that many of them were virtually impossible to complete without cheating. Which is also why the games were designed with vast amounts of saves and let you save at your discretion. These days, there are no cheat systems, usually no save systems (just “checkpoints”) and I’m still usually able to complete most games in a weekend.

martian gothic spaceship hall

Now back to the game I played for six months. The interesting thing is that Martian Gothic had you alternating between multiple characters a couple of years before Resident Evil Zero. Difference is, in this game, your characters are NEVER allowed to meet. That’s right. Because of the technicalities of the infection, you have to make sure that as you run around this base, you never accidentally run into the same room another character is already in or you die immediately and it’s game over (until you load the last save).

Some of the many other reasons this game sucks include:

– Trying to stay out of each other’s way isn’t easy because every hallway looks pretty much the same, whether you’re in the spaceship-like area or the one that’s more like a hotel (there are essentially only two areas you will be in for most of the game). On top of that, there’s a “map” that appears to have been drawn with crayons by a sixth grader.

martian gothic map

It does not show the current location of you or any of your other characters. There’s no map key to provide any information such as locked doors vs. unlocked doors, and while there are “street” names, they are of no help since there are no “street” signs in the hallways of the base.

– Since you can’t meet up, when you discover you need an item someone else has, you have to use “vac tubes” to send the items to each other. Juggling inventory is a nightmare. There are various types of storage units all over the place, but none of them holds many items. Each character has a lot of inventory slots, but even that fills up quickly, so unless you use a walkthrough and know exactly what to pass to who at what time and what to hold onto, you will be misplacing or storing away crucial items, then running all over the place to find them later which isn’t going to be easy, not only because you don’t want to accidentally run into one of your friends, but also because…

martian gothic zombie get up

– Zombies don’t die. EVER. It takes numerous bullets to knock them down, but after a few minutes, if you pass by them, they get up again. FOR THE ENTIRE GAME. And you have to go through these same halls continuously. And the controls are horribly unresponsive. And you get stuck in vicious attack cycles with these zombies that you can’t get out of, with them grabbing you over and over again as you struggle to shake them off and run away or at least back away enough to raise your gun to shoot them. This is where you need a GameShark, otherwise you will run out of health and bullets. GUARANTEED. When you shoot the zombies enough or shake them off enough, they will fall down for a while, then you can search them to see if they have any items on them, but if you stay near them for long, they will get back up. There are also other annoying little critters that are sort of like spider crabs. Some of them leap on your face, while others can sting you and poison you, so you’ll need the antitoxin instead of the health (the antitoxin I used was GAMESHARK).

martian gothic spider

– The other thing about zombies—they pace set areas. It’s like there are invisible barriers they won’t pass, making for “safe spots” you’ll figure out after a while. These are areas you’ll actually be able to just leave your character standing for long periods of time to switch to other characters. It feels really scary—for instance, you can leave one guy behind a desk in a room with about 3 zombies and they’ll never touch him, no matter how long you play as one of the other characters. However, you can’t do that in places where those little spider crab critters are roaming about. They can go anywhere. If one of your characters does get attacked while you’re playing as another character, you get a warning message so you can switch over and save them from the threat.

martian gothic deskDude, save the bullets. Just go stand behind the desk.

– Entering your inventory pauses gameplay, and you can also switch between character inventories while in the inventory screen. Using vac tubes or accessing storage boxes also pauses gameplay, which is important, because many times they are located in areas or rooms where zombies are present.

– Computers are crucial because they have files that offer story, give clues to puzzles, control machines you need to solve puzzles, give you access to see the contents of all the storage units in the base if you’ve misplaced an item you need, and most importantly, allow you to save. But here is the catch. Every computer you find only allows you to save 12 times (on the PS1 version…I’ve heard you can only save a few times on each computer on the PC version. I would cry). Thankfully, the game pauses while you are on the computer, because annoyingly, sometimes, the computer isn’t always in a safe room. Very often, there’s a fricking zombie in there! You just can’t get a break in this damn game!

martian gothic zombie grabJust get the frick off so I can get to that computer and save before I die.

martian gothic zombie grab 2DUDE!

However, one cool thing is that even if you are playing as a character about to do something dangerous but are nowhere near a computer, you can switch quickly to a character that is near one, save, and then switch back. Finally, near the end of the game, you do find a laptop that you can carry with you so you can save anywhere (up to 12 times).

– Surprisingly, there’s no actual “boss” battle, but there are a couple of times when you have to contend with these big monsters that are at first invulnerable. You actually need to use (a walkthrough and GameShark) two characters and your wits to figure out how to get past them.

martian gothic big monster

Near the end of the game, you do get a special gun that kills them in one shot. Only problem is, the controls and aiming are so bad on these old PS1 games that you will die multiple times trying to get that one shot every time you have to kill one of these things (there go the 12 saves on that portable computer).

– Making matters worse, midway through the game, you at one point do some sort of science experiment in a room with a big monster statue thing taking up most of the space and a zombie on the floor in the middle of the room. You literally have to run back and forth from one machine to another in this small room, and every time you do, the zombie gets you.

martian gothic statue room zombie

But that’s not even the bad part. After you’re done with your science project, you kind of awaken this monster statue, and for the rest of the game, it periodically unleashes something that sucks some life out of your characters! WTF? You’ll be in the middle of playing, it will cut to this statue breathing, and then your character will get a dizzy spell and down will go your health meter. My GameShark flipped that monster statue the middle fin.

– Just when you think the game can’t get any worse, the final section takes you underground to an area that takes full advantage of the shitty camera angles of survival horror to ensure that you plummet to your death multiple times thanks to pits that you can’t see because of a camera angle change. Not to mention, this area will have you running in circles for hours. Plus, the zombies down here enjoy getting glitched right in FRONT of the camera when you are being attacked by another zombie further back so that you can’t see the fight and have no way of getting away from the zombie or running in the right direction to change the camera angle away from the glitched zombie.

martian gothic underground cathedral

– A majority of the remainder of the game plays out underground, and eventually one character has to plant some dynamite down here and gets five minutes to meet up with the others at a location you will have no memory of how to get to by this point in the game. And this dick game even has the computer system in the base talk to you and taunt you…while your character stands in place, unmovable, and listens but the timer doesn’t stop going down!

Once you reach your getaway rocket, the computer informs you that you won’t be getting away that easy, and have one minute to go out and hit a switch on a wall on the other side. Well, I don’t even remember if I made it the first time I played the game through years ago. But this time I ran out, around the rocket, saw the switch, tried to dodge a zombie, failed miserably, and started wrestling free of him with 36 seconds remaining. As I tried to shake him off, the computer voice started to mock me, and the game wouldn’t let me play any longer. I just had to sit there and watch the 36 seconds of precious escape seconds count down to zero. What the fuck is the purpose of giving me one minute to hit the switch if the actual rule is “you have a minute not to get grabbed by a zombie”? What kind of bullshit is that? And I didn’t even get to see myself EXPLODE. The credits just rolled after the timer ended.

martian gothic ceiling monster

And because there’s Internet, I did NOT load my previous save to give it a try all the way back from the and do the whole bomb drop dash. I simply went on YouTube and watched someone succeed in pulling the switch and the rocket shoot away from the base before the credits rolled. It wasn’t much more exciting than my death ending.

I REALLY should just get rid of this game so I never make the mistake of playing it again in a moment of nostalgic weakness combined with forgetfulness of just how horrible it is.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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