One genre that really thrived on the Wii was that of the lightgun on-rails shooter. HDTVs may have rendered lightguns useless, but the Wii’s control system meant that there was now a new way to play. All good things must come to an end, however, and now we’re in an age where lightgun games just don’t really work anymore. We’ve seen some attempts at using motion control, but it’s not really the same. The best attempt at doing so was last year’s The House of the Dead: Remake, but even that was heavily criticised for its controls.

But, there was another lightgun game that came out last year, albeit to zero fanfare, was Martian Panic – a remaster of a Wii release for the Switch. Did this one fare any better?

Many thanks to Funbox Media for the review code.

Martian Panic is set in 1950’s America as an Alien mothership nears the planet to start its invasion. These green-headed Martians are here to abduct cows, trample roses, and generally just cause all kinds of mischief on planet Earth. A group of plucky civilians (and one alien cheerleader) decide to fight back using the only method known to Americans: guns. Lots of guns.

Each of the game’s eight stages are set in a unique location, and open with an animated cutscene in the style of a comic-book to help set the scene. The resolution of these haven’t been upscaled as much as the main game, making them seem quite grainy in comparison, but they’re still a neat enough inclusion and add to that cartoony vibe the game is looking for.

And the game is very cartoony. With an exaggerated visual style to help accentuate the 50s vibe, it comes off as rather charming as you navigate your way through the stages. The level of detail is unfortunately very reminiscent of an early Wii era title (and even then, not a very good looking one), but the art direction helps make it at least pleasant to look at. 

Things don’t fare quite as well in the sound department, with the voiceovers being largely annoying for the most part. The constant chatter between the humans and the aliens gets rather obnoxious as the game mixes bad writing with bad voice acting. It’s hard to pick out a least favourite character, but the Martian Overlord comes of as especially irritating. The music is at least pleasant enough, but the constant wittering means that you never have the opportunity to enjoy it.


Even though the presentation is rather mixed, the gunplay proves to be far more consistently enjoyable. It’s an on-rails shooter, meaning that all you need to do it aim your joycon and shoot the aliens that pop up. It all controls rather well when played with the joy cons, and I found aiming to be a breeze. The game’s initial calibration screen seems to do a good job at getting everything set up prior to play.

Unfortunately, reliance on motion also means that you do have to re-centre the cursor a lot, just as in The House of the Dead: Remake. It’s something that is no doubt unavoidable given the lack of any real positioning system, but at least tapping the Y button is easy enough to do once you get into the habit of it. 

As you go through the levels, you can find extra guns, health, or power ups to help you get through the stages. Guns are mostly quite satisfying, with the shotgun and chain lightning cannon being my particular favourites, and health is typically earned by rescuing certain civilians. The game’s rather generous hit detection does mean that it’s easy to gun down innocents by mistake, but at least there’s no penalty for doing so. As for the power up, these are found in crates and are a tad more obtuse when compared with everything else. There’s one that seems to temporarily remove the need to reload, and another that presumably buffs your damage output – but it’s honestly hard to tell what most do, especially as the game doesn’t explicitly tell you. Presumably the initial Wii version outlined them in its instruction manual, but there’s nothing here. It’s a shame they didn’t add in some extra flavour text or an in-game manual as a substitute, but it makes little difference either way as none provide much added benefit.

With up to four players, and three difficulty levels to choose from, the game is a blast to play if you have a friend along. Mowing down alien scum with a buddy is as much fun as you’d think, even if the game lacks the interesting set-pieces and boss battles that many other games in the genre have. Going solo does remove some of the fun due to the level of difficulty of the game (seriously, some sections are impossible to avoid getting hit, even on the easiest difficulty), but fans of the genre will still probably find themselves having a good time regardless.

It’s a shame then that the game is so highly priced. Considering that the game felt like a budget release even when it came out, asking for just short of €30 for this HD Switch port is a big ask. With low resolution cutscenes, the odd framerate dip, and very little in the way of extra content to keep you playing, it really is best off sitting on your wishlist until a deep enough sale comes along to help justify a purchase.


I wasn’t expecting much from Martian Panic, but it offered a rather pleasant lightgun-style experience. Sure, the controls aren’t perfect and need resetting constantly, but the colourful visuals and varied environments makes this a must play for fans of the genre. Just wait for a hefty price drop first.