Review – Caverns of Mars: Recharged

Atari is starting to delve into some deep cuts with its latest Recharged titles, and I’m more than happy with this strategy. Not long ago, I was somewhat complaining that the only thing the company was doing was releasing Recharged games, some of which were pretty boring and uninteresting, like the take on Breakout. But in 2023, things are very different. Atari had an excellent 2022, culminating in the release of the pristine Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration, as well as some actual new IPs. I guess that, now that the VCS is basically dead, the company will proceed to invest more in new games, as well as some more Recharged goodies in between important launches. Now we finally have our first Atari game of 2023, Caverns of Mars: Recharged.

Caverns of Mars: Recharged Recoil

Use the recoil of your weapons to control your descent.

This is truly a hidden gem. I have never heard of Caverns of Mars before playing Caverns of Mars: Recharged. Unlike other Atari titles being remastered over the past years, this had never been released on arcades or consoles. It remained, for the longest time, an Atari 8-bit computer exclusive. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, besides simplistic controls and a replayable gameplay loop, of course. This is still 80’s Atari we’re talking about, after all. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to be so fun, and for it to actually be the source of inspiration to one of my favorite indies available on the Nintendo Switch.

Let’s see if you can notice the similarities. In Caverns of Mars: Recharged, you are told to constantly descend a cave full of enemies and traps, with a very limited amount of weapons and health at your disposal. One of the ways you can control the speed and direction of your descent is using the recoil of your weapons, slowing you down for a while. Grab points by descending even further, as well as by destroying enemies and collecting power-ups.

Caverns of Mars: Recharged Collision

Gotta say, the collision detection is a bit iffy.

Yep, it reminded me a lot of Downwell, and I love Downwell. Both games share that rare and pristine sensation of making you want to play yet another round after dying, making them impossible to put down. I think this is the best thing about Caverns of Mars: Recharged. It’s not a game with the most epic of presentations (it’s par for the course for a Recharged game in terms of graphics and sound), and it does suffer from a, uh, “questionable” collision detection, to say the least, but the gameplay loop hit the spot.

I didn’t even mind that, unlike the holy grail of the Recharged series, Yars, Caverns of Mars: Recharged doesn’t exactly feature a lot of modes, or challenging scenarios, or anything like that. It’s all about that single gameplay loop that made me want to replay it over and over again. I’d say it’s also the fact that I decided to review this particular game on the Switch, the perfect “pick up and play” platform for an arcadey title.

Caverns of Mars: Recharged Enemies

This seemingly unremarkable cave is filled with an excessive amount of turrets and enemies.

There’s little else that needs to be said. This is a straightforward recreation of a simple, but addictive Atari game very few people have even heard of. That’s probably why Caverns of Mars: Recharged feels oddly fresh. It feels like the kind of indie roguelike any small team would develop as its first title. It’s also a game that manages to overcome some of its flaws, namely an average presentation and questionable collision detection, by simply being way too addictive, the perfect kind of game to own on a portable.


Graphics: 7.0

Better than the 1981 original, while still retaining that game’s atmosphere. On a big screen, it looks average. On portable mode, it looks more appealing.

Gameplay: 7.5

The gameplay loop is easy to learn and very replayable. I had issues with the collision detection, though; it just feels off-putting.

Sound: 6.5

It’s the typical EDM soundtrack seen in other Recharged games. A bit better than others, but not by much.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Flaws and all, this gameplay loop is too addictive to be ignored. It’s a fun and fast-paced arcade experience that fits perfectly on a portable.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Caverns of Mars: Recharged is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Atari VCS.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Caverns of Mars: Recharged was provided by the publisher.