The best bit about Stranded: Mars One is that it never feels ready to stop trying new things. Granted, none of those things are especially original, but the first half-hour with this auto-runner platformer is a lot of fun.
It starts off like a retro-infused Canabalt set in space, your little astronaut bounding about the surface of Mars, galloping towards a moon buggy that some blighter's left quite a distance away.
That's a problem, given that the astronaut's oxygen supply diminishes at an alarming rate.Breathless
Gradually, further skills are revealed to help you tackle the hostile terrain. You can slide through tunnels, land from a hefty leap in a manner that doesn't break your legs and obliterate your momentum, zoom upwards using your jetpack, and wall-jump.
Before long, Stranded comes across a bit like Rayman Mars Retro Run, for better or worse.
On the plus side, there's a lot to like in the way Stranded is constructed. Levels gradually increase in complexity, potentially rewarding exploration.
The fastest route to your goal isn't always the most fruitful, and you can often add to your coffers by counter-intuitively heading precisely in the wrong direction, before doubling back and gunning it for the moon buggy.A leap too far
But there are shortcomings, too. The game's floaty nature is nicely authentic and makes it feel a bit different, but it can be infuriating.
This is especially true when the astronaut hits a wall, about-turns, dodders about for several seconds too long - without you being able to intervene - and then asphyxiates like a space-bound indecisive idiot.
There's also that nagging hint that later levels have been designed in part to separate you from your cash. There's a shop for upgrading your space suit or buying a new one, with enhanced capabilities, but this feels more like a necessity than an option as checkpoints become extremely tricky to reach.
None of this results in Stranded being a game that should be lost in space - for a freebie, it's most definitely worth a download. But there will be too many times when you'll see red on the red planet, regardless of your gaming prowess.