You've crash landed on Mars. There's a massive dust storm coming your way. Your landing craft is in tatters. Basically, you're screwed.
You start moving, slowly, slowly. You clamber over the wreckage, looking around for anything you can salvage. There's nothing. It's all gone.
But… what's that? In the distance, you spot a hulking great machine. It's definitely not alien - you've seen this kind of thing before. You pull yourself closer, closer, until finally, in the red dust, you see it…
And at this point, I burst out laughing. I should've known some kind of weird disconnect was coming with JCB Pioneer: Mars, but it hits you like a truck. One plastered with JCB's distinct black-and-yellow markings and logo.
I hop in the JCB and start driving around, trying desperately not to sing The JCB Song by Nizlopi as I do so, and then failing miserably because it's such a banging tune. There's not much to see or do - just red dust and red rocks as far as the eye can see.
Eventually, the disembodied voice acting as the tutorial tells me there's a nearby habitat I can drive to, so I head over in its vague direction, crashing into nothing, performing enormous leaps which flip my vehicle, and generally making a mess of my approach until I see what I think is my new home.
It's definitely my new home. There's an easy way to tell - next to it is an enormous building with the JCB logo on it.
I don't know what's so funny about the idea of JCB being a big enough construction corporation in 2067 that it has sent its equipment to Mars, but no matter how many times I see that logo, I can't help but crack a smile.
And the JCB logo is practically everywhere in the game, from the huge buildings down to tiny screens. JCB is the one funding your trip to Mars, so it makes sense that everything would be plastered with its branding, but it's still just so damned funny.
I clean up the place a bit, repair some power generators with my Repair Gun (the less said, the better), and check into my habitation. A cheery message arrives. JCB is now aware of my survival.
JCB. Is in charge of this entire mission to colonise Mars. Not NASA, nor any other space program. JCB has, in fact, developed its own Mars mission. I'm struggling to write this through the laughter. It's just too absurd for words.
JCB Pioneer: Mars is not a good game. It's deliberately obtuse, forcing you to work out the very basics of survival on an alien planet with almost no help and too many menus to work your way through.
It's a game about driving from resource pool to resource pool, going home, filling your tiny inventory with materials, walking slowly to a storage location, walking back to your vehicle, rinse, repeat.
One time I loaded up the game having saved out in the wastes, drove back to my habitation, and found that the whole thing had just vanished into thin air with just some storage boxes floating three feet off the ground to mark where it had once been.
But somehow, despite all its endless frustrations and boring gameplay, I couldn't help but laugh. Mostly because of the honking great JCB branding filling the landscape of Mars.
This isn't a critical review of any kind. I'm afraid that, if it was, I'd rip it to shreds, and that seems a tad unfair. So, let me just say this - if the absurdity of JCB's Mars mission is enough to pull you into buying a game, then you should check out JCB Pioneer: Mars. It is very, very silly.