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by Capcom

3copy.jpg (6622 bytes)As technologies have advanced and games have become more realistic I’m finding it harder and harder to slip into the groove and find that zone. You know that zone. It’s the place where you and the game become one. You’re not playing Pac-Man in the zone. You are Pac-Man. There were days I would stand at the Pac-Man machine when I felt like I could do no wrong. There were two things to do: eat the pellets and avoid the ghosts. All other cares would fall away and I would become the little muncher. I could say the same about Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Defender. These games had the power to induce a Zen-like state. I miss that focus. I miss that serenity. There are just too many details to keep track of in most modern games to allow for any real sense of peace in gameplay.

25copy.jpg (6736 bytes)Capcom has resisted giving itself entirely over to the 3-D realm and I applaud them for that. I love the fact that Capcom is willing to juxtapose the old with the new and I love that they are still publishing for my beloved Dreamcast. Mars Matrix is a great top down shooter that will entertain you for hours, much more than many of the games requiring more processing and rendering. The graphics are colorful and lively—everything you’d expect from Capcom. Us old school gamers need to be reminded every now and again what it was like in the beginning. With Mars Matrix, Capcom has given us another fine example of why the top down space shooter is still a compelling genre. The 2-D shooter has a fine and distinguished history that really began with Space Invaders and Asteroids and peaked with 1942. These games have cost me a fortune in quarters, but they were allowances well spent.

27copy.jpg (7221 bytes)Did I mention that the game is difficult? Don’t plan on breezing your way through the levels on this one. The enemy attacks are merciless and you will often find that you have nowhere to hide from the waves of enemy fire. Also, your limited to only three continues, so don’t expect to plow through the game without some skill and attention to detail. I promise significant amounts of frustration, but it’s the most rewarding kind of frustration.

5copy.jpg (7725 bytes)Mars Matrix is a pretty game to look at, but it won’t astound any of your friends. We need to remember that graphics are only a small (and sometimes insignificant) aspect of video games. It’s not so much how they look as how they play. Mars Matrix plays like a gem. There are some great bosses that seem to fill the entire screen like any good boss character should. If a game doesn’t pit you as a David against a metaphoric Goliath, I don’t see the point in playing.

4copy.jpg (7924 bytes)There’s not a lot that you can say about the gameplay. You fly in a straight line, blow things up, and avoid getting hit. The action is relentless and it will have you going back to it again, hour after hour. Mars Matrix has a fairly traditional primary and secondary weapon set up, but it also has a power up function that adds a really nice twist to the game. If you allow your power meter to build up to full strength, you can absorb enemy fire and throw it back at them. There are times when you will simply not be able to dodge the fire no matter how quick your reflexes are.

17copy.jpg (8226 bytes)It’s been so long since I’ve played a 2-D space shooter that I was surprised when my first ship was wiped out by one stray canon blast. One blast! I had become so accustomed to taking damage in games like Starfighter that it never occurred to me that one shot could destroy me. I felt like the stakes were instantly raised. Mars Matrix has no tolerance for sloppy gameplay. It has no tolerance for mistakes. This is a game that was designed to milk as many quarters out of its players as possible, and I’m just glad that I didn’t run into this game in an arcade.

18copy.jpg (8881 bytes)For those of you that think games have gotten just a little too easy and too complicated at the same time, Mars Matrix will take you back to a time when games were simple but never easy. To top it all off, it comes in at a price that isn’t too hard on the pocket book. If you’re a gamer who looks for good value in the titles you play, you could do a lot worse than this little gem. Mars Matrix took me back to the simplicity of console gaming before 3D chips made things too real and too complicated. If you need to get away from it all and just focus on the game, Mars Matrix is a sure ticket to peaceful oblivion.

Jason Frank   (06/19/2001)


Ups: Lots of action; high difficulty; zen-like gameplay.

Downs: Lots of frustration; niche audience.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast


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