Yes, Jupiter & Mars has some similarities to Ecco the Dolphin -- you use echolocation, whales are revered as god-like entities, and there's a sci-fi slant to the story. This PS4 adventure doesn't go quite as insane as the Mega Drive classic, however, instead opting for a more down to Earth narrative about, well, Earth. Taking control as the former of the two titular dolphins, you'll be making a splash in an effort to restore the natural order of the ocean. That's a pretty big mission, but by the time the credits roll, you'll probably wish there was more to it.
The game is set in a future where humans have abandoned Earth after global warming has submerged most of the planet's landmass underwater. The result is major cities and all kinds of technology left beneath the waves to make life difficult for the marine creatures that remain. The Elder Whales task Jupiter and Mars with destroying a network of machines that are troubling nautical nature. From the off, the eco-friendly message is clear, and while it isn't rammed down your throat, you'll likely notice it more and more as you play.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course. In fact, the story makes for some pretty amazing sights. Visually the game isn't troubling the PS4 at all with its simple textures and emphasis on colour, but seeing famed landmarks like Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty beneath the sea certainly helps environments stand out.
But you're not here for sightseeing. Your main objective is to find the machines you need to deactivate, and you'll also sometimes need to locate lost or trapped creatures, like turtles or crabs. Most of your time is spent exploring the open levels, pinging your echolocation to find new pathways and spot objects you can tell Mars to barge through. You can also use a pulse to interact with certain sea life, mainly in order to free hidden creatures.
Each environment is rather roomy, giving you plenty to explore, but they're unfortunately quite empty. As we've said, there are fishy friends you'll need to track down, and each level contains various collectibles too, but other than that, there's not much going on. As is true of the real open sea, there are often huge areas of open water that offer almost nothing in terms of interaction, save for the odd rock you can smash.
In terms of enemies, jellyfish will block your way, but a pulse will shrink them down, letting you pass. Other threats amount to stealth sections, where electrical pulses will immediately send you back unless you're hidden behind certain surfaces, and patrolling orbs will do the same if you get too close. The former can be shut down by finding and smashing their power supply, but neither of these obstacles are particularly fun to deal with. You'll see them repeated throughout, which is a little disappointing. There are one or two unique enemy encounters, but they never amount to much.
Still, throughout the game you'll unlock new abilities, including swimming deeper and destroying tougher objects. These open up new paths, including in previous levels, so there's some replayability in revisiting areas to explore further and find even more collectibles. We'd have liked for one of the power-ups to make you faster, because combing previous environments for trinkets is a slow burn.
The game fares a little better in PSVR, where you can truly appreciate the scale of everything. The visuals take a noticeable hit, but swimming alongside an enormous whale, or down to a sunken tanker, definitely turns up the wow factor. There are three modes for turning depending on your preferred method; incremental, smooth, or head tilt. We found the snappy incremental turns worked best, but it's nice to have the options. If you have Sony's headset, it's probably the best way to experience the game, but it works just fine either way.
Honestly, there isn't much more to talk about. This is a short, chilled out experience with a serious message tying it all together. In fact, the game supports two ocean-related charities, so you can at least feel good about your purchase. It's a decent enough title, and its cause is a good one -- it's just a shame about the lack of depth when it comes to gameplay.
Jupiter & Mars is an enjoyable underwater experience that sadly doesn't push the boat out. The visuals and music mix for a trippy swim through Earth's ruins, but the lack of interactivity makes the journey surprisingly dry. If you're after a relaxed dive through colourful caverns, this might be worth a look, but don't expect it to make a big splash.