Earth Atlantis Review
Earth Atlantis takes the aesthetics of maps from over half a millennium ago and applies them to a game set a couple of hundred years in our future, resulting in a game that probably doesn't look like anything that you've played before. In this future world, the Earth has been flooded and the surviving remnants of humanity are fighting a war of survival against a robotic enemy that has taken the form of giant sea creatures. Manning a submarine you'll need to destroy the robotic sea creatures to ensure humanity's survival. It's a rather unique vision of the future, to say the least, but put all of that setup aside and just take Earth Atlantis for what it is, a challenging shooter that doesn't look like any other shooter that you've played before.
The 14th Century maps used for inspiration for the look of the game give it a two-toned aesthetic, with sepia colored backgrounds and brown inked lines used to define the environments and enemies. Everything has a hand-drawn look to it with an exquisite attention to detail. The enemies take their inspiration from sea life such as nautili and squids, but also from some of the more exotic sea creatures that only existed in the minds of the mariners of old. The game's look would be unique and interesting in any genre, but in a genre that more often than not features brightly colored space environments it really stands out from everything else. However, after you've played it for a bit the novelty will wear out its welcome. First, you play in the same brown undersea zone for the entire game. Sure, you've probably played more shmups set in space than you can count, but at least they changed out the backgrounds each time you moved on to a new level. Second, and more importantly, the two-tone graphics also mean that some bullets don't stand out from the background as much as they need to for you to see them coming.
Seeing everything that comes at you is important because the game is a shmup of the bullet hell, or at least heck, variety. The sea creatures that you'll face will not only charge your sub in kamikaze attacks, but will also unleash all manner of bullets, missiles, and projectiles at you. If you enjoy the shmup style of gameplay in which you must simultaneously maneuver your sub from gap to gap in a sea of bullets while simultaneously lining up your shots on your attackers, then you'll have some fun with Earth Atlantis. The game is bit more challenging than other shmups because you're often in confined spaces - the ocean is filled with tunnels, caves, and the debris of the former civilization that has sunken beneath the sea. At first this can be a bit confusing because it's not always clear as to what's an obstacle and what's merely a part of the scenery, but the game's consistent with what's what so you'll be able to catch on relatively quickly. Those of you who haven't played a shmup before may find the confined spaces and bullet-rich environments to make the game challenging to the point of frustration, though; Earth Atlantis does not make for a good introductory game to the genre.
As for your arsenal, your sub is equipped with a standard projectile weapon that fires from the bow of the sub. As you defeat enemies, they drop upgrades that you can pick up that upgrade your weapon in stages, adding multiple projectile streams and adding fire from the stern. Barrel pickups, which are rarer and tucked away in certain locations, add new special weapons to your arsenal. Picking up a new weapon replaces your current special weapon with the new one, so there's a bit of a gamble involved in whether or not the new weapon will be better against the type of enemies that you're currently facing. All weapons fire on a single fire button, so the controls are kept simple to allow you to concentrate on your maneuvering - you can play the game using the left stick to move, the left trigger to reverse direction, and the right to fire all weapons.
The game is laid out in a maze-like environment in which your goal is locate and defeat game's boss creatures. Unlike most shmups in which you scroll your way to a level boss, Earth Atlantis marks the next boss' location on your map after you defeat one. The boss fights give you more room to maneuver than you have in the tight corridors that lead to them, which certainly helps you in those fights but there's so much more room that you'll often find yourself blind-firing as the boss moves off-screen. The bosses are a mix of unique creatures and larger versions of some of the other creatures that you encounter on your way to the boss. As you make your way further into the game you'll begin to encounter bosses that are variants of previous bosses, though.
Getting through the boss battles is the goal of the game. The game doesn't keep score, other than to time how long it takes you to reach and defeat the final boss. You are technically given only one life, but you can choose to continue your game from the game over screen. If you do, you'll be taken back to the starting point, but the bosses that you defeated up until the point you died will remain dead and beaten. You'll also keep your special weapon, but your main weapon will lose all of its upgrades, forcing you to do a little grinding before you'll be ready to tackle a boss again. Choosing to start a new game will reset things back to the beginning.
At first I was intrigued by Earth Atlantis' unique setting and the challenges presented by its confined spaces, but the game failed to keep my interested for long. Once the novelty wears off the game's aesthetics begin to feel drab and monotonous. The backtracking and crisscrossing through the underwater maze to hop from one boss to the next begins to feel like a slog, and there's not much of a reason to engage the enemies in between once your weapons are powered-up. If you're looking for a short-term diversion, the game is good enough to fill that role, but not many people will be returning to it just to beat their best time through the game.
Final Rating: 65% - A shooter set under the deep brown sea.