Martian Gothic Unification: Sometimes its Okay to be Obscure
Resident Evil, as a whole, is a fantastic horror series. Granted, it’s got a few not-so-stellar games, and the spin-offs leave much to be desired. Although even I can admit that with the extremely trashy Resident Evil Dead Aim, I, for some reason, love that game. But Resident Evil was a big inspiration for horror games, especially in the early PlayStation days. But this also led to some poorly almost imitations of the series.
I’ve been trying to go through these more obscure retro horror titles. This is where Martian Gothic Unification comes in. A perfect UNIFICATION of obscure and imitations of Resident Evil.
The premise of Martian Gothic Unification is that Earth’s first settlement on Mars has been silent for ten months. So our team of specialists has been sent out to find out what the cause is and to see if we can help.
The idea of Alien-based horror outside of the Alien series seemed really refreshing. And with very specific instructions that if any of our three-player characters meet, they will die. On the surface level it sets up this incredibly tense premise, and don’t be mistaken. If two characters are in the same room, you will get a game over. This is easily avoided but an excellent mechanic nonetheless.
The other standout mechanic in Martian Gothic Unification is that enemies do not die. They can only be temporarily incapacitated. It adds a certain level of tension to the survival horror element of the genre. Since ammo and healing are already scarce, it makes you really strategize which enemies are worth taking down temporarily and which ones are better left to just run around. It also attempts to coin into the whole puzzle-solving elements of Resident Evil, but not as successfully. This is due in part to the amount of backtracking in Martian Gothic is ridiculous. Resident Evil, for the most part, handles it well. By setting us in a really well laid out area, we are able to get to know every intrusive detail, for example, the Spencer Mansion. So when we do find a key, we know exactly where it goes and how to get there. But, since Martian Gothic has us split our time between three characters, it becomes almost immediately harder to get a good sense of the map and learn our locations.
The backtracking really fails the player in Martian Gothic because the puzzles and items to these puzzles really feel like an afterthought and a way to pad out the game time rather than to really test us and give us a little more insight into the world of Martian Gothic.
For the few ideas that Martian Gothic Unification has going for it, there is a lot that really does nothing but frustrate the player almost every step of the way. The controls are its biggest detractor. While I believe there is such a thing as good tank controls and bad tank controls. Silent Hill is an example of good tank controls, and Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, is an excellent example of tank controls feeling rough and clunky. Martian Gothic fits right into the bad tank controls group. Whenever you want to move your character, it feels like a chore and mostly unresponsive. It doesn’t help that the character’s movements in this game are incredibly slow.
Then there is the voice acting. It is rough. When Martian Gothic was first released, I understand voice acting was a lot different than it is now, but it is on another level of laughably bad. It makes you feel like you are a horror game acted out by Tommy Wiseau. This is a shame because the general overall idea of the game is fantastic, and the story itself is pretty good and has a pure terror vibe.
Overall, it’s a shame Martian Gothic was seemingly rushed out the door from what I could gather through interviews because if it had been given time to ruminate and grow a little bit more, it could have been something special. The one massive strength of Martian Gothic Unification is that there is no hope for these humans, and the level design, soundtrack, and notes left by the other crew are a clear sign of this. Is it worth checking out now? Your time could be better spent checking out some other obscure horror titles, and that’s what I plan to do.