HomeReviews4/5 ReviewCaverns of Mars: Recharged Review

Caverns of Mars: Recharged Review

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It may not have the iconic draw of a Centipede, Asteroids or Missile Command, however Atari have played a blinder in dragging Caverns of Mars out of the 1980s to deliver it as their latest Recharged title. We’d go as far to say that it’s one of the best modernisations of an old classic yet. 

Caverns of Mars: Recharged sees Atari and SneakyBox come together once more to provide gamers with the chance to take in a classic game, remastered and rebooted for a more modern audience. It’s a strategy that has worked well so far, with some seriously neat versions of adored games brought right up to speed. If you’re a fan of the games that have built out the Recharged series, you’re going to absolutely adore Caverns of Mars: Recharged.

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a seriously challenging test of your gaming skills

Caverns of Mars: Recharged is a vertical-scrolling shooter in which you take charge of a tiny little ship, falling through the titular caverns of Mars. With gravity playing a huge role in how this plays out, it’s up to you to dodge your way through the tunnel systems that make up these caverns, blasting new paths and taking down enemy defenses as you go. Your primary goal is to drop safely out of the other end, destroying the reactor at the heart, but as you may suspect, doing so ain’t an easy task.

Caverns of Mars: Recharged should be seen as a seriously challenging test of your gaming skills, reflexes and ability to think on the fly. Dodging left and right, you’ll need to bring your A-game to the table as you try to steer your ship safely past obstacles, enemies and the caverns themselves. With a limited health bar, and constant falling speed, keeping collision free is your primary goal. 

Secondary to that is the utilisation of your weaponry. Your ship on Caverns of Mars: Recharged has a downwards firing peashooter that is extremely limited in ammo. But thankfully the areas you fall through are entirely destructible, so creating new paths when all else seems to have been exhausted should see you right. 

Firing your ammo pulls on your ship’s thrusters, slowing your descent, and so Caverns of Mars quickly becomes a ballet between fast falling, shooting, slamming on the brakes and dodging to safety. At its most basic, that’s all you need to worry about in Caverns of Mars. Go a bit more in-depth and you’ll discover a variety of weapon pick-ups – Shotguns, Lasers, Rapid Fire and more – as well as other collectibles that refill health or ammo (fuel) levels. You’ll need these too as the ammo in Caverns of Mars is extremely limited. You’ll want to use it wisely. 

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You may think that it would be the Arcade which is seen as the main draw

There are a couple of different game modes in place too: an Arcade and the Mission challenge arenas. 

You may think that it would be the Arcade which is seen as the main draw, but for us we’ve preferred to use it as a training ground for the main Missions events. See, it’s here where you can dip in and out of Arcade, working game modifiers as you power your way through a variety of different Caverns. Your goal is to make it to the very end of these stages, throwing on more game-amending options as you see fit, learning the best way to navigate your way around. It also gives you a great insight into the sheer pace of Caverns of Mars; something which takes some getting used to. 

Get used to it you will need to though as outside of the Arcade mode comes some thirty Missions that Atari and SneakyBox have found within themselves to put together. Veterans of the series will know what to expect here as they slowly work their way through stages that are complete with certain restrictions and requirements. One-shot affairs with more point scoring and leaderboard chasing on offer, these will restrict you to using certain weapons, lasers, gyro shooters or the like, with the points you rack up on each stage going towards a combined overall leaderboard. 

Reach the end of a Mission and further ones will unlock, but you should be aware that some of these restricted stages are absolutely brutal. Practice will make perfect, but we’ve been sitting with Caverns of Mars: Recharged for many an hour and are still nowhere near fully completing the thirty on offer. Expect this to be a game that you are rinsing for a good few weeks. 

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crisp, clear and well detailed

For Caverns of Mars: Recharged to really flow though, you need visuals that are crisp, clear and well detailed. Those found here tick all three of those boxes and whilst simplicity and silhouette are used to great effect, this is a game that looks really classy. It helps that it all moves super smoothly too, without nary a jagger or stutter as you and your ship go falling through those caverns. 

There’s a great use of colour throughout as well, with things popping delightfully, all mixed up as progress is made through the various subsections of Mars’ caverns. 

That soundtrack is absolutely pumping too. Super high tempo, it fits perfectly with the whole Recharged vibe that is sought in Caverns of Mars. When you combine that with the sound effects – the shooting, the explosions, the destruction – and there’s little to dislike sonically. 

It can all be taken in via local cooperative fashion as well, with two players teaming up, each manoeuvring a different ship. You may think that would make the whole scoring process that powers Caverns of Mars a cinch, but the catch is that one player’s ship is used as the thruster brake, whilst the other takes on the shooter role. It goes without saying that any progress will only come about via a combination of skills, with communication vital. It’s quite a neat little addition, especially as the Arcade and Mission challenges can be taken in with a mate. Whether you’ve enough friendship credit in the bank as you both try to cooperate is another matter.

We’re sticking with our initial thoughts that Caverns of Mars is one of the finest Recharged titles yet. However it’s not all perfect. Leaderboards fail to load on occasion and the big bold ‘Game Over’ screen is always a bit temperamental, sometimes refusing to show in full. But those are minor nitpicks to an otherwise top quality game, with just the odd feeling of a little bit of inaccuracy in terms of hit detection afflicting in-game moments. Aside from that and a steep learning curve that ramps fast, Caverns of Mars: Recharged is a joy. 

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Whether you’re looking to take some tentative first steps into Atari’s Recharged series or are an old veteran of the rebooted scene, we’d urge you to stick Caverns of Mars: Recharged right near the very top of your play list. It can certainly feel brutal, there’s no denying that, but the adrenaline hits it can bring far outweigh those of frustration. 

Falling has never been so glorious and for the price, you could do a ton worse.

Caverns of Mars: Recharged is on the Xbox Store

Neil Watton
Neil Wattonhttps://www.thexboxhub.com/
An Xbox gamer since 2002, I bought the big black box just to play Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. I have since loved every second of the 360's life and am now just as obsessed with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S - mostly with the brilliant indie scene that has come to the fore. Gamertag is neil363, feel free to add me to your list.
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