This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 4th November 2017.
This year has been a phenomenal year for the Switch, as I’m sure has been said many times before by just as many people. This success and the incredible library that the console now has can be at least partly attributed to the sheer amount of indie support that it has received. There has been a large amount of fantastic games, many of which we have covered here on Nintendo Scene, and next up in our sights; the post-apocalyptic marine adventure, Earth Atlantis, by Pixel Perfex.
The story of Earth Atlantis is reasonably simple, with a slightly archetypal post-apocalyptic theme. Essentially a “Great Climate Shift” occurred causing a worldwide flood that resulted in 96% of the world sinking underwater. Following this, the machines of the world fused with the marine animals (for, reasons, I guess) and the oceans filled with creature/machine hybrids. The player’s place in this world is as a “Hunter” of these creatures, in possibly one of the least thought-out plans in recent video game history as eradicating what “life” remains on Earth seems worryingly short-sighted. But you’re on a mission to rescue other hunters that are in trouble in the West Sea, so you might as well get to it.
How the player goes about this is through a simple 2D exploratory shooter; one but shoots, while the other turns the ship 180 degrees. All of the enemies are based on various marine creatures, so expect fish, squids, crabs and the like, all of which attack and move in different ways. As the player starts out with essentially a peashooter, you have to build up your power by collecting “P” bubbles that increase your basic firepower and other bubbles that give you auxiliary powers such as homing missiles or an electric bolts. Additional auxiliary bubbles can be found as well to increase that particular attack; for instance, additional “H” bubbles give more homing missiles with each shot. Once you reach a level that you feel confident with, you can take on one of the bosses; monstrous, giant marine creatures with sometimes unfair levels of firepower.
Taking down one of these bosses unlocks a new area to explore with new creatures, and further bosses to discover and defeat. The only issue is the exploration when it comes to this is slightly indecipherable at first; the map in the top left is a blank square with markers in it as to where the bosses and power ups are and the player has to work out the route to them. This is great in that it forces the player to learn the lay of the land (or sea), however it does make it getting started in the game remarkably difficult. This is, unfortunately, not helped by the design of all of the areas looking the same and containing the same scenery and obstacles making tracking (or backtracking) your progress through the world incredibly difficult.
More than this, the game is incredibly punishing to the player for the crime of dying. Starting back at the last checkpoint with your starting power and a single bubble containing the the last sub weapon you picked up. Now, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that the game is more difficult because of this, but it is unfortunate that this mechanic makes the game disheartening to play. Especially as then the player has to attempt to rebuild an arsenal to take on the boss that they struggled in engaging previously. I will acknowledge that this was much worse prior to the recent patch to the game, which rectified some of the boss difficulty and allowed the player to at least start with something from death instead of nothing, but it doesn’t give the player much incentive to want to continue.
Aesthetically, this game is beautiful, with an incredible sepia-toned colour scheme. The creatures and the player’ little submarine are designed to look like pencil drawings that really stand out from the various locations. As mentioned earlier, the backgrounds being drawn in pencil too mean that the player can often lose themselves in game, and not in the good way. Also, the levels have design elements that appear in front of the player character as well as behind, only further enhancing this effect of the player being able to lose themselves. Finally, as the developers insisted on adhering to this colour palette, some attacks are incredibly hard to see with the urgency required to deal with them, resulting in some unfair instances of taking damage. If you add to this that there are only a very small amount of music tracks in the game, which begin to grate before too long, the whole package just comes across as a little low effort.
So, should you buy Earth Atlantis? I can’t deny that this may just be me not “getting it” but this game just doesn’t feel player-focused enough to warrant most people’s time. It punishes the player a little too much for dying, the balancing of the bosses is still a little eschewed, and the lack of interesting scenery or music just leaves it feeling a little bland. This being said, anyone that wants an incredibly challenging shooter game to spend a little time on for Switch, this is the perfect game. It has some fantastic ideas, a unique art style, and some fantastically imaginative creature design. It’s just a shame about the rest.
Thank you to Head Up Games for supplying the review code for this game.
Earth Atlantis is available in Nintendo eShop for Switch right now.