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39 Days to Mars Switch Review

*Editor's Note: The Geek Getaway received a Switch copy of 39 Days to Mars for review.

39 Days to Mars is a two-player puzzle adventure game focusing on the story of best friends heading for space. It is the first game developed and published by It's Anecdotal. First released on April 25, 2018, on Steam, this year it now finds itself on consoles. As of writing, the game is available on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in addition to Steam for $15 across all platforms. A PlayStation 4 release is still in the works.

The game follows Albert and Baxter, two British chaps looking for adventure in a Victorian era steampunk world. Players control both of the lead characters through their interstellar journey. The world tries to establish itself through tiny morsels of lore, however the story tends to revel in its absurd, funny writing.

Albert and Baxter's inventions always have a flair of brilliance and insanity

39 Days to Mars is full of dry humor. Albert and Baxter often find a way to downplay any situation, such as discussing tea or late library books while the ship’s engine explodes. Unfortunately, the dialogue is limited, especially in single-player mode. Characters often repeat themselves over and over as they interact with the environment. This quickly turns jokes stale, and monotone line delivery only helps make them more boring.

While the writing can take away from the experience, 39 Days to Mars’ minimalist art style does a fantastic job of creating the quaint universe. The world is drawn with an inspired ball-point pen style. These environments tell a lot with the little there is, showing us a bit more about the characters and their idea of “genius.”

As good as the art style is, there were some moments where it interfered with gameplay. On the ship, the HMS Fearful, I struggled to find certain key objects or clues. While puzzle locations would often be thickly outlined (and on fire), some things such as a library with many necessary clues, faded into the sepia background.

Can you guess how many objects here are important? Answer: all of them

Solving puzzles as they appear creates the rhythm of the experience. Players typically face physics-based challenges, with one person assigned a hand, similar to Surgeon Simulator. Each task faced usually finds a way to outdo the last one in difficulty and ingenuity. However, this uniqueness does wear down very quickly.

The puzzles were never too hard for my co-op companion and me to figure out, but the controls did give us immense trouble.

We each took a Joy-Con to control our assigned star-bound scientist. Moving around the world was often easy. In puzzles, it was a different story. As we used our characters’ hands to rewire circuits or reclaim a lost key, the game failed to read our inputs. Objects would either spin and float the wrong way or be dropped entirely.

One point, when aboard our vessel, a puzzle required one of us to knock off a hanging object weighing us down towards the earth. My partner chose to be the brave soul to save us. In doing so, his character stopped moving entirely, forever frozen in place. We were unable to continue, and no amount of controller recalibration could fix it. Only resetting the game entirely solved the issue.

When the game was responsive, we tackled each task confidently only to feel sidetracked by hunger. You see, Albert and Baxter cry for snacks after almost every puzzle on the ship. At first, it was funny. By the eighth break for scones, my partner and I were tired of doing the same joke puzzle over again. It felt like a method of artificially extending the already short playtime.

The crew requires food and drink after every task,
 including battling space squids to talking about battling space squids

39 Days to Mars only lasted us about two hours. Most of that time was spent either fighting the awkward controls or chugging through incredibly low frame rates.

During the penultimate puzzle, the game was at the lowest frame rate I had seen of any Switch game I played. It turned an epic moment into a painful slog that lasted much longer than necessary. When the game made its final joke, we were ready to turn it off.

While Albert and Baxter may achieve blast off, I fear 39 Days to Mars is a bust. Even with the promise of a fresh experience with new puzzle solutions in another playthrough, neither my partner nor I want to play again. I believe there is a lot of potential in the developer, It’s Anecdotal. Their game drips with passion, but a lack of necessary polish keeps the title from the stars.

Final Verdict: Not Recommended

*All images are owned by their respective copyright holders and are used under fair use guidelines