Sci-fi Puzzle Gardening
If your the type of person that is looking for more exploration and puzzles in your games, and less combat, then Waking Mars may be the game for you.
In fact, this indie, 2D puzzle platformer, distinguishes itself by putting very little emphasis on platforming or combat. As Liang, an astronaut exploring a cave system on Mars, the player flies around via an unlimited jetpack, researching new forms of plant-like life that has been dormant underground. The Steam version can be played via mouse and keyboard, and has controller support as well.
The bulk of the gameplay consists of moving between puzzle rooms, each of which requires a certain minimum amount of "bio-mass" to be generated before the player can move on. This means Liang must collect 'seeds' and plant them in various soil types in order to proceed. As he travels deeper, more types of soil and life-forms are discovered, which interact with Liang and each other in different ways. 0ct0, a robotic drone that was sent in to the cave before Liang, has also left a breadcrumb trail of optional objectives that helps fill in the story of this mysterious cavern.
Since most rooms are devoid of life (or close) when he enters, there are few 'enemies' that must be dealt with, and any that due were likely placed by the player. While it is possible to die via damage from lava or hostile plants, there is little need for accurate platforming skill. The challange of the game comes from trying to build well working eco-systems in each room, as limited by the soil patches, in order to maximize the bio-mass rating. In some circumstances, planting something in the wrong (or right) place may quickly lead to a chain reaction where the room is quickly overrun with life, without much more interference from the player.
Being a puzzle game, it is difficult to say how much time the average player will take to complete it, but based on my time with the game, I would say 3-4 hours to 'beat', and up to 8 to S-Rank (including the 'special' ending), assuming no walkthroughs are used. How long any particular player takes with the game will depend on how efficiently the player moves through the rooms and 'farms' necessary seeds where appropriate.
At the time of this review, Waking Mars is available on Steam for $10.00 and I do recommend it at that price.