The MARS System is an interesting oddity in today’s day and age. Light gun peripherals or one of those controllers with twenty games that plug into the TV is more of a 90’s thing. I thought one would be crazy to release a similar device in the present what with all the home VR hardware, motion-controlled video games, and even handhelds like the Nintendo 3DS or PS Vita. I was fully expecting to receive a gimmicky piece of plastic in the mail that was trying to advertise itself as a “cheap” alternative compared to the new, fancy tech nowadays. While the MARS System won’t replace my PSVR, it shows that PDP is serious about carving out a piece of living room entertainment for itself. Even if the full launch experience is over $200 and contradicts its cost-effective selling point.
Now I’m not a fancy mathematician or anything, but MARS System works in a unique way. The actual, circular hardware can be placed anywhere in your immediate area if it has a clear view of your entire TV screen. Then the LIGHTCON controllers, or the plastic gun peripherals, can register their reticle on-screen no matter where you point as long as they’re paired. The IR tech and light gun aesthetic work very well in tandem. I’ve placed the MARS System on the floor, on a chair’s armrest, and even on a door handle after getting it to stay since I’m a master of balancing. No matter where I put it, the tech had no problem registering my trigger pulls. There were some minor drift issues where my aiming didn’t pair up with the reticle on the screen, but a simple recalibration fixed these issues without fail. Also, try not to move the MARS System mid-play session as everything craps out at that point, but that’s common sense, really.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty though we need to talk about the installation and setup process. For the PlayStation 4, it was quite easy once I realized that there is a step by step process. Certain steps cannot be skipped which I just know will be the source of contention for people rushing to connect the MARS System. For the hardware to turn on it needs to be connected to the PS4 via a USB input. Then the LIGHTCON gun peripherals need to be paired by holding down a button on the right side of the controller. Funnily enough, this button has an identical one on the opposite side that doesn’t push in. Finally, the circular dome that makes this all possible needs to be synced with the TV’s screen area. If its camera has an unfettered pathway to the screen this should be a simple process. However, a handful of times it took a few attempts for the installation to take place. Assuming everything works as it should the LIGHTCONs should become available once a compatible game’s main menu screen is reached.
The LIGHTCON themselves are nicely made and have a good weight to them. Although this can act as a catch 22 that I’ll get into later. They fit nicely in the palm of my hand and I can get a good grip whether I’m using one or two hands. The guns do require two double-A batteries per controller which are incredibly easy to install. Each of the triggers also have a perfect resistance to them and the barrels slide back as well. This is mostly relegated to reloading your equipped gun’s ammo. Lastly, there’s a raised, round button on the back of the plastic pistols that are used to switch weapons or reload within the first couple of games.
Speaking of games, the MARS System supports only three at the moment. There’s a rated M, on-rails, zombie game that is my personal favorite out of the bunch. It’s fun, enjoyable, and more fun than it had any right to be. Next is the family-friendly title where players must protect a robot puppy in a post-apocalyptic world. A super-intelligent A.I. has taken over the planet and our mechanical canine needs to gather information to stop it. Cue us humans protecting the pup from robots, obstacles, explosions, and gaps in the floor. Last but not least should speak to the hunter in many citizens. That or anyone who’s ever been in a rural arcade before. A classic hunting game ports its way over to the MARS System so we can test our skills against deer, moose, elk, and a flurry of creatures in between. Overall, they are a decent collection of titles as our reviews will attest. This still doesn’t excuse the light gun’s lack of options, however. I can see the most impatient of us experiencing everything all three have to offer in just one afternoon.
Along with not being a mathematician, I am also not an economics major. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop me from having an opinion on the MARS Light Gun System and accessories price points. I can admit that the starter packs, which have the hardware, one game, and one LIGHTCON, would be a fair transaction at $100 if it had an extra LIGHTCON to it. It doesn’t, sadly, and the rest of the experience is a little overpriced as well. The launch games available and the LIGHTCON prices should be lowered just a tad so that way early adopters can enjoy all the ins and outs to the small number of offerings at the moment. Simple math on acquiring everything related to the MARS System now is a little over $200. That’s not far off from some of the virtual reality heavy hitters. Personally, at this price point, if I didn’t have a headset yet and could only choose it or this, I would pay the remaining balance for the PSVR. It should be said, though, it’s a completely different situation if you already have a VR headset or are looking for something to spice up a social space.
I’m sure we all have those memories as children where we headed on over to an entertainment or amusement place, usually for a birthday party or weekend excursion. There were arcade racers like Arctic Thunder, basketball shooting cages, classics like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and, of course, your House of the Deads and Time Crises. While the MARS System won’t transport you to these memories like that one Ratatouille scene, it does bring a nice jolt of nostalgia that takes you back to a simpler time. Being able to share similar experiences with those younger than you in your own home is a big plus for the system.
If you’ve read our Voyage of the Dead review you are surely aware of one problem that doesn’t escape the home release. Your enjoyment of the MARS System will be limited to how long you can fight against gravity (and the limited launch titles.) The LIGHTCON are really well made and have a good weight to them. So while the gun peripherals feel realistic and sturdy, they can affect the length of your play sessions. But at least you aren’t rationing quarters to keep on playing. Although if you are then we need to have another discussion on how you get out of bed in the morning.
MARS Light Gun System PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
I’ll be fully transparent here and say I went back and forth with the Mars System’s final review score. I teetered between a seven and eight weighing the pros, cons, biases, personal history with light gun titles, and my own thought process. Even though the Mars System is serious about having a place in your living room and can be unexpectedly fun, the lack of launch games and arguably high price points led to scoring it “Very Good.” This doesn’t detract from how well PDP has implemented this kind of experience for the residentials though. There are some genuinely fun moments to be had and it can really get an entire household involved in the beauty that is video games. Just a little bit more substance would have elevated this peripheral product.
LIGHTCON controllers are really well made
Setup is considerably easier than one would expect (if you follow the step by step process)
All three launch games reviewed six or above here at Pure PlayStation with one being family-friendly
Tracking technology is on point most of the time
Only three launch titles at Mars System’s release
Tracking can and will go haywire sometimes
Well made LIGHTCON gun peripherals will aid in gravity’s party-pooping
Current price points ensure experiencing everything at launch won’t be as cost-effective as you’d like
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the MARS System, all three, digital launch titles: Voyage of the Dead, Qubit’s Quest, and Big Buck Hunter Arcade, and three LIGHTCON controllers provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Check out all our MARS System reviews below in time for their November 1st release.