Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 136 / DECEMBER 1991 / PAGE 130

Martian Dreams. (Ultima Worlds of Adventure 2 - Martian Dreams computer game) (Evaluation)
by Richard Rapp

In 1893, American astronomer Percival Lowell set out to answer a question that has plagued mankind for centuries: Is there life on Mars?

That year, at the Columbian Exposition, he unveiled plans for a manned mission to Mars and the colossal Space Cannon which made the journey possible. But bad luck was in the air. The cannon discharged a day early, sending many of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century hurtling on a one-way trip to the red planet.

Now, two years after the disaster, you will lead a second mission in hopes of finding the stranded party--or what remains of them--and returning them safely to Earth.

Blending history, fantasy, and mystery, along with the Lord British knack for designing knock-out adventure games, Martian Dreams presents a scenario guaranteed to challenge and amuse even the most jaded players. Additionally, the tried-and-true role-playing system--developed and refined throughout the Ultima series--warmly welcomes newcomers to computer role-playing adventures with its eminent playability.

The Mars you explore differs greatly from the one we know today. This Mars is a living planet, although one in decline. Due to its low gravity, it loses the equivalent of 60,000 gallons of water a day from its atmosphere in the form of hydrogen and oxygen gas. This makes survival difficult, though not yet impossible.

Life on Mars also differs from what you might expect. The creatures you find are strange blends of plant and animal, ranging from the size of a mouse to the size of a dinosaur. While these creatures' shapes and physical abilities vary widely, they usually possess nasty temperaments.

You won't spend the whole time wandering through the harsh wilderness of the planet's surface, however. Your search for the stranded party--which includes such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Andrew Carnegie, George Washington Carver, and Thomas Edison--will lead you through magnificent cities and underground complexes constructed during the hey-day of Martian civilization.

Along the way, you'll encounter many puzzles, tricks, and traps to overcome, including the riddle of the hallucination-inducing Martian dream machines.

Your rescue party also contains many historical figures who will accompany you on your travels. One of these is the father of modern psycho-analysis himself, Sigmund Freud, who plays a significant role in the process of creating your character when you begin the game. In this process, Freud conducts a short interview, which includes dashes of Oedipal-complex psycho-babble. Your answers to his questions determine your character's attributes.

To players familiar with previous games in the Ultima series, Martian Dreams' technical capabilities should come as no surprise. Its appealing graphics are rendered in 256-color mode, and its sound-track supports all of the most popular sound boards.

While these features may not be revolutionary, that shouldn't be seen as negative. The game chooses to focus on an intriguing storyline rather than a few gee-whiz effects. The game's only real drawback is its hefty hardware requirements. For instance, if you store the game's files in their compacted format, they take up about 3.5MB on your hard drive. In expanded form, they swell to 5.5Mb. Also, while the documentation claims that a 10-MHz machine will suffice, the pace seemed a bit slow even on a 16-MHz 386SX.

A clever tale of nineteenth century space travel depicted in classic Ultima style--that sums up Martian Dreams. If you can meet the strict hardware requirements, do yourself a favor and spend this year's vacation on Mars.