Monuments of Mars is a low-rez, early PC platform game sharing an engine with Apogee's Arctic Adventure and Pharaoh's Tomb. The game was split into four episodes, the first one shareware. Each contained twenty puzzle-filled levels, each of which were one screen large.
Monuments of Mars is a CGA-based platform game released in 1991 by Todd Replogle through Apogee Software, and I must admit that the only reason I wanted to review it is its name. It consists of 4 volumes, each divided into 20 levels. The first volume was released as shareware, while you had to buy the entire game for the other three. Apogee/3D Realms has discontinued support for this title and has released it as freeware on March 20, 2009.
The volumes explore different martian structures and are named accordingly: First Contact, The Pyramyd, The Fortress and The Face. It seems that several astronauts sent by NASA to Mars have disappeared for unknown reasons. Thus, your main goal is to free them after reaching the last levels, where they're held captive, and ultimately find the one responsible for this situation. As you can see, the story isn't complex. It basically involves proceeding through all those 80 liniar levels and doing all the possible actions in the meantime.
You can read the initial story (with all the horrible misspells) in the Main Menu. There you can also check the instructions on how to play the game. But it's not too hard to figure it out by yourself: avoid or kill enemies, avoid traps, limited ammo, take energy packs to recharge gun, activate computers, pull levers and push buttons (or shoot them, it has the same effect). Often, the rooms have a door which requires an access card to exit, but through many of them you'll just have to walk from one end to another. Usually, the astronauts are confined in the 19th level, while the last room represents a logical connection with the next volume in the game.
If you remember to save your ammo and not to kill every enemy you encounter, the game will seem very simple and short. Considering the fact it has almost no story, it becomes instantly boring and unrewarding. There are only 2 types of enemies: robots and alien plants. There's nothing special about them, their only attack is to touch you (obviously you'll die) and they're easy to avoid. What seems unusually interesting is that I sometimes managed to stay alive on the head of the alien plant. The control of your character will pose a greater problem. Your astronaut will move and jump awkwardly, almost like a robot and you'll often miscalculate your trajectory, ending in flames or in an enemy. Influenced by the martian gravitation you can change your direction while falling.
I don't actually see a feature that would determine you to play the game again, but the score system is worth mentioning. While exploring the underground facilities you'll receive points for each enemy killed or bonuses grabbed (in the form of small triangles). Additionally there's a considerable score boost if you collect all the letters in the levels (M,A,R,S). After you finish the volume you can compete in the Hall of Fame with popular game characters like Commander Keen and Roger Wilco.
Don't expect something special from the graphics (which are CGA) or the sound. You'll hear beep-sounds for a couple of actions like jumping, shooting, activating or freeing the astronauts. The rooms, on the other hand are well-designed, despite the limited engine software. It's the only feature that could motivate you to keep walking forward, wondering what creative puzzle will you solve next.
When surpassing the clunky control, the game shapes itself into a typical title directed toward the casual masses. You can finish it entirely in an hour and every time you die the current level simply restarts automatically. If you got too bored you can save your progress by pressing S and continue afterwards with R (Restore). There's a single word that can define this game - average. It doesn't kill you, but in the same time it doesn't give you enough satisfaction. Playing Monuments of Mars will definitely distract you from the real gems sheltered on our site, hence the low score I gave it.
I played the game using the default settings. You'll probably want to increase the cycles, because this way the character will move smoothly. On the other hand I don't know if that's such a good idea. The game is already too easy.
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