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In Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams, the Avatar once again finds himself tossed into an alternate reality (as he did in the first game of the series, Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire), a world in which the fanciful visions of Victorian-era space dreamers becomes reality. At the 1893 World's Columbian Expedition in Chicago, a brilliant scientist unveils his patented Space-Cannon to the world and announces plans to launch an expedition to Mars later in the day as the highlight of the entire show.
Something goes wrong. The cannon accidentally fires early while carrying many important public figures including Sigmund Freud, Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and H. G. Wells. The Avatar, known by that title to the dignitaries, becomes part of a later rescue team launched in a separate cannon. The historical figures drift far and wide while on Mars and the Avatar's primary goal is to locate and rescue them, then return safely to Earth to ensure history is written with their wisdom and guidance.
The game's landscape is rendered through 256 color VGA graphics and is crafted to portray the essence of the latter part of the 19th century artistic feel. Music is handled via AdLib-compatible Midi conventions, composed with the same 19th century sensibilities in mind. Together, the graphics and music are designed to provide a feeling of immersion in the strange Martian landscape.
The designers claim the title is the most advanced Ultima system to date (c.1990), streamlined in appearance and functionality since the release of Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire. The interface, aside from dialogue, fully supports use of the mouse as an alternative to keyboard control. The world's atmosphere is a mix of modern-day knowledge of Mars, the historical figures in the game and a large amount of fantasy alterations.
The game's main screen is quite similar to many other Ultima games with the left-hand side mostly dedicated to the main play window, a toolbar along the bottom and a character description/action menu on the right side. The menus, as in previously released Ultima titles, are changed to fit the theme of the game.
During the journey through this fantasy filled 19th century alien landscape, the Avatar encounters many varied creatures ranging from radiation-powered mechanical men and massive Martian worms to groups of sentient Martian plants and shantytowns full of famous figures from Earth's past. The Avatar must bring order to the broken Martian canals, solve mysterious disappearances and even combat his own inner demons via dreams if he is to succeed in his quest.
Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams provides gamers with an experience full of both fantastic monsters and historical figures, in itself a somewhat unique approach. If you persevere, the rewards and accolades awaiting your return to Earth will undoubtedly be great but, conversely, fail and infamy will follow. Can you fill the shoes of the Avatar? ~ Drew Hunt, All Game Guide