JCB Pioneer: Mars (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 12.01.2019

Review for JCB Pioneer: Mars on Nintendo Switch

It's rarely a good sign when a major corporation attaches itself so intimately to a piece of media where its name ends up playing a key role in the title. JCB Pioneer: Mars more or less comes off as a vanity project disguised as a survival game. That said, it is not as if being backed by a company so heavily makes a product inherently bad. JCB Pioneer has a legitimately interesting premise in stranding audiences on Mars and forcing them to survive the red planet's harsh topography. Of course, premise means nothing without the proper execution and a JCB driven game plays about as well as one might expect.

Even though the "JCB" moniker implies a stereotypical lack of quality right out of the gate, JCB Pioneer: Mars initially presents itself quite well. The concept of getting stranded on another planet - one familiar to audiences, at that - is a strong one, and feels like a natural extension of the deserted island motif so popular within the genre.

There is a clear level of care put into bringing Mars to life in here. Its geography not only feels true to life, but the hostility of the world ensures that danger is conveyed immediately while also adding a layer of mysticism to the planet. There is a certain beauty to how untouched and primal Mars is. Thanks to the art direction, immersion should be a given. Unfortunately, it's in attempting to find a suitable form of immersion that the cracks begin to show.

Underneath the pretty orange hue lies a shocking amount of instability. While the experience isn't too buggy by any means, the gameplay clearly has not been properly emphasized for the Nintendo Switch. Stuttering happens far too often and an unstable frame rate ensures that Mars never looks quite as good in action as it does in theory. Although technical issues will always be a problem - especially for titles that frankly shouldn't be so intensive as to throttle their own frame-rate - a solid gameplay foundation can salvage most issues.

Screenshot for JCB Pioneer: Mars on Nintendo Switch

Sadly, JCB Pioneer: Mars lacks said foundation. Gameplay is rather typical for the genre, requiring shelters to be built in order for survival along with instilling a methodical loop, but where any other title would create a rhythm, JCB in content doing the absolute bare minimum. Item management is pitifully slow, ignoring years of quality of life improvements in favour of an item by item sorting system that was archaic at inception; building new shelters are never as fun or rewarding as they should be, taking too long and offering too little in terms of creativity or gameplay variety; and survival, more often than not, simply doesn't feel worth the effort as mechanics like oxygen management - while conceptually sound in theory - act as one mechanic too many in execution.

This is to say nothing of how boring traversing Mars actually is. Most of the day to day consists of driving around Mars searching for anything to do. While this does act as a means of showing off the planet in action (again, only in theory, given how the poor performance throttles immersion,) the gameplay side of things has been ignored for a barebones survival loop. A large reason why JCB struggles so much is likely owed to its status as an Early Access title.

Despite only going into its newest Beta as of December, 2018, the title is already being sold for full price on Nintendo Switch. Although the indie market very much plays by its own rules, this is nothing short of deceptive. As is, JCB Pioneer: Mars is simply incomplete. It's one thing to sell itself as Early Access on Steam, but another to release on the Nintendo eShop where such a distinction typically is not made - and likely won't be. With time, it's certainly possible that JCB will iron its kinks out, but that time most certainly is not now.

Screenshot for JCB Pioneer: Mars on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

In spite of a fairly interesting and unique set piece, JCB Pioneer: Mars never quite manages to take advantage of its Martian background. Detrimentally slow pacing, performance issues, and a shallow gameplay loop, all work to break down what should be a memorable survival title into just another piece of shovelware coasting by on a solid premise. Worst of all, it is incomplete as of its release, still being sold as an Early Access title on Steam. It's not impossible that it will have its (very) rough edges softened with time, but the possibility of playing a complete and well made game eventually hardly justifies a purchase.

Developer

Atomicom Limited

Publisher

Atomicom Limited

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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