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JCB Pioneer: Mars

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Title:  JCB Pioneer: Mars
Developer:  Atomicom
Publisher:  Atomicom Limited
Genre:  Strategy, Action
Platform:  Nintendo Switch
Audience:  Everyone
Release Date:  03/01/2019
Price: £19.99– Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this game.

What the Developers say

Humanity is in crisis! Survive the perilous conditions on Mars to build a new future.

Experience incredible survival sandbox gameplay and explore Mars using a selection of futuristic, ultra-rugged JCB vehicles designed specifically for the challenge. Mine precious materials, construct large-scale buildings and research new technologies to ensure humanity’s future lies beyond planet Earth.

Key Features

– A hard-core blend of survival and construction gameplay with 100’s of hours of gameplay.
– Explore the planet, discover and mine resources, construct buildings and research new technology to grow your colony.
– 3D Print and Craft items that can help you survive.
– Discover secrets as you traverse the planet using highly futuristic heavy-duty construction and mining vehicles, designed with JCB engineers.
– Overcome everything the hostile environment throws at you including meteor strikes, dust clouds and electrical storms, all Martian hazards are based on real science.


Carefully blending the bright, shiny and garishly yellow plastic trucks from my youth with the 2015 science-fiction film starring Matt Damon known as ‘The Martian,’ is no mean feat. I cannot say which I was more surprised about. However those three bold letters – JCB – were an unexpected addition to the title of this survival sandbox game. In perhaps the most blatant example of advertising in 2018, or what could prove to be the most unlikely sources of partnership ingenuity, I jumped into the driver’s seat of my Explorer JMC-X18 and sought some answers.

Looks and Sounds

Hold the brakes! I cannot go on pretending. The first thing I did was sit at the main menu and internally debate why there was no atmospheric music soothing my ears. For anyone who has ever read a review of mine, this subject appears time and again – so much so I fear I may have a problem. I garner a lot from the opening title screen, as it is my first interaction with a game, and we all know that well-known phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression…” or words to that effect. Either way, the lack of any music was unsettling. It later dawned on me that this may have been the whole point, but we will get to that.

Anyway, after sufficient time was spent enjoying the sweet silence, I jumped into the driver’s seat of my Explorer JMC-X18 and sought some answers.

Hold the brakes!

OK…so something else cropped up that I could not ignore. A flashback to the debacle of ARK: Survival Evolved flooded my mind as I took my first steps on what should have been one beautifully well-presented red planet. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. The graphics on offer here range from the woeful to distinctly average in equal measures. Now, let it be said, I did not buy my Nintendo Switch for graphical superiority over the other current generation counterparts. Let it also be said, I am a keen advocate for ports of games from yesteryear and am willing to take a hit on graphical quality to have new titles available on my hybrid system.

What I struggle with somewhat is graphical content that clearly could have been better presented. If a game is to be ported to the Nintendo Switch, I would hope that some considerations are made to ensure it runs to the best of its ability. I do not feel that this has been done here. Fortunately for both developers and consumers, it hasn’t affected the gameplay to the point of rendering it unplayable. However, it is a disappointment at times.

Gameplay and Replayability

As far as gameplay is concerned, it is here where JCB Pioneer: Mars shines brightest. Billed as a game offering ‘incredible survival sandbox gameplay’ and the opportunity to ‘explore Mars using a selection of futuristic, ultra-rugged JCB vehicles designed specifically for the challenge,’ Atomicom have stuck to this. With a focus on mining precious materials, constructing large-scale buildings and researching new technologies to ensure humanity’s future lies beyond planet Earth, JCB Pioneer: Mars drops you, and only you, on the currently uninhabited planet and tasks you with building a new life.

Humanity is in crisis! Survive the perilous conditions on Mars to build a new future.

The first indication that this was not going to be a walk in the park was in the manner in which the game informs you of what is expected of you. There are a few tutorials provided as you encounter objectives and events for the first time, however very soon you are left to your own devices.

You must find the resources necessary to build new structures that allow for a self-sustained living while also keeping a watchful eye over your health, hunger and oxygen levels. Both scarce and difficult to find, it becomes apparent that Atomicom has done their best to simulate the challenges one would face on a one-way trip to Mars. On the Nintendo eShop, the gameplay has been described as a ‘hard-core blend of survival and construction’ and hard-core is one way to describe it. Within an hour of playing, I had exhausted all rations that I landed with and was missing vital elements to complete my blueprint buildings, many of which I had no idea where to find. As well as this, I had more objectives than I knew what to do with and often aimlessly drove around in the hope of finding something…anything…to help me out!

It is at this point that I reflect and try to determine whether this is the making or breaking of this game. I am a firm believer in survival games looking to simulate ‘survival’ wherever possible, however, when appealing to the masses, the option for some form of ‘hand-holding’ should be available. Accessibility for all should be the aim of the game, and there are one too many occasions where there is not enough information to successfully proceed. My thoughts drift to the knowledge and understanding that anyone who crash lands in space would have to have to even be on a spaceship in the first place, and this should be translated in-game.

One particular point that sticks with me is that after unsuccessfully mining for about five minutes, with the vehicle simulating the mining process and coming up empty-handed, I finally realised that my vehicle inventory was full and therefore I could not carry anymore. Whether this says more about my hopes for being the saviour of humanity or the games ineptitude at informing me remains to be seen, however, I can safely say that the latter should have happened regardless.

As well as carefully managing resources, demands on the human body and the night-day cycle, Mars also likes to throw a few environmental factors into the mix. Anything from meteor strikes, dust clouds and electrical storms are on offer here and support in recreating the feel of danger and uncertainty. Coupling this with the somewhat unnerving soundtrack, or lack of makes for a game which has captured the essence of solidarity in an unknown location exceptionally well. Regularly throughout my time with the game, I felt alone and isolated – sometimes to the point, it felt hopeless continuing. A powerful emotion to evoke in a gamer, and one which, if complimented better, would have made for a fantastic gaming experience.


Plagued by issues of its own making, JCB Pioneer: Mars teeters on the edge of greatness without ever managing to deliver. From a graphical perspective it is disappointing, and the lack of direction, while something I can appreciate, meant that I couldn’t make progress I was hoping for. In turn, this meant for a game that I wanted to enjoy but never truly did. I know for sure that there will be gamers out there that will flourish in the environment created by Atomicom; however I am not one of them.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

2.5 out of 5 stars

You can purchase JCB Pioneer: Mars at the Nintendo eShop on the following link,

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