It takes a lot to get noticed in gaming these days, with developers conjuring up weird and wonderful ideas to get us to buy their product over anyone else’s. Pixel Perfex came up with Earth Atlantis and whilst the concept of a side-scrolling shooter certainly isn’t anything new, the vintage sketchbook-like artwork is what catches the eye initially. But is that alone enough to make a game worthwhile, and does Earth Atlantis have any other mechanics to keep the player hooked into this underwater shooter?
At the end of the 21st century, 96% of the Earth’s surface went underwater due to ‘The Great Climate Shift”, leading to the downfall of the human civilisation. Machines on the other hand have taken up the form of marine animals, thriving in the post-apocalyptic world and filling up the ocean with creature-machine hybrid monsters. After a distress call from the West Sea, you’re called into action to hunt-down and eliminate each and every monster you can find.
You are the hunter and that’s essentially as far as the story goes, before throwing you into a submarine to explore the fierce aquatic world in Quest mode. The buttons are simple enough to grasp; movement of the ship can be done via the left-stick or the d-pad, shooting is mapped to both the A button and the right trigger, whilst a u-turn is made with the B button or left trigger. Killing enemies will provide upgrades to the power of the main weapon and additional weapons are found on the minimalistic mini-map, enabling the automatic use of extra firepower from bouncing bombs, missiles, energy beams or homing missiles – the latter of which are tremendously useful for those hard to reach areas.
Whilst there are plenty of regularly respawning minions to send to their demise, with robot hybrid forms of crabs, sharks, piranhas and more present to harm your ship, the real aim is to check the map and find the big monsters to slay. These include beasts like the King Dragoron, a massive three-headed dragon creature, the Proto Megalodron, similar to the largest shark known to man, and the Rotodon-Alpha, a rotating spiky thing that’s a swift mover – clearly a distant relative of Sonic.
You need to use all your wit to outmanoeuvre the monstrous creatures, taking note of their attack patterns and retaliating when the opportunity arises, because when they hit, they hit bloody hard. Picking up a fair amount of upgrades is a must, but even then, these boss battles aren’t easy at all and provide a decent challenge. Some of the ‘boss’ sections might include special events that see swarms of a certain creature heading your way; they are intense yet rewarding to overcome.
What lets Earth Atlantis down though are the long and monotonous journeys across the environment, with only a dot on the mini-map giving any inclination of where to go. A mini-map provides nothing else in regards to the layout of the area – just a blank space with an icon for your ship so you can get a rough direction. As you explore the large map, it’s full of dead ends and route options, meaning it’s easy to get lost, which drains a lot of the fun out of the experience. Also, the repetitive nature of fighting boss after boss doesn’t help either, despite the varied enemy designs.
Once you’ve taken down all 41 targets, which include critters as well as the giant beasts, the Hunter mode opens up. Essentially, it’s just a timed version of the aforementioned monster hunting, with kills adding more time to the clock and the ultimate goal being to defeat all the massive beasts before it runs out. I’m not entirely sure if ‘more of the same, but faster’ is what’s needed after the main mode, but some people like that I guess.
The only other chance of replayability comes in using the four different submarine types on offer, each equipped with a unique weapon as well as dissimilar levels of shot power, armour and speed. For example, the Nautilus starter ship has a standard looking weapon and decent all-round stats, while the Musashi blasts powerful energy beams and relies on speed to make up for less armour. Even after trying them all out though, the same boredom kicks in.
A boredom which is almost accentuated by the simplistic colour scheme, despite the artwork being unlike any game I’ve seen. It’s got an old sketchbook vibe to the visuals, making what would be a black and white underwater world appear to be stained with age. Don’t misconstrue the critique as a lack of appreciation for the style, because there’s no doubt the monsters look great, but when you’re traversing through the same areas time and time again, Earth Atlantis is begging for some additional colour or simply an environment that’s more exciting than mounds of dirt and scaffold parts.
Earth Atlantis is enjoyable in short bursts, eliminating a couple of sea creatures here and there – with the largest ones providing a good challenge. The world itself is darn big too and new pathways open up regularly to explore further, however the basic mini-map leads to loads of backtracking and aimless wandering in between bosses, which grates on you in no time. Apart from the cool monsters and, for a short while, the artwork, there’s nothing else worth shouting about.
If you love shooters, then maybe dive into Earth Atlantis when it’s in the sale, but otherwise, keep yourself dry.