Al Gore Never Predicted This Difficulty
HIGH The sketch/parchment-like graphics are fantastic
LOW The premise is awesome… if only there was a plot to follow
WTF How does climate change result in mechanical sea beasts?
Global warming. Climate change. Worldwide devastation. Only one of these things would normally be a videogame premise, yet here comes Earth Atlantis — a decidedly old-school, side-scrolling shooter using the environment as a premise. There’s no doubt that this is a modern shooter, though, thanks to fantastic graphics, pinpoint controls and a difficulty without an ounce of hand-holding.
The central plot is simple enough – climate change has ravaged the Earth, leaving 96% of the world’s population underwater. On its own, this is a terrifying concept. But, when factoring in the robotic sea creatures that now populate the depths, it also speaks volumes about humankind’s dependence on machines and technology. It might be a bad pun, but this is a title that goes a little… deeper… than expected.
Visually, Earth Atlantis is spot on. Instead of boring players with unconvincing water effects, the designers decided to give the entire game an old-fashioned, weathered parchment effect. There’s a distinct “old world,” steampunk-meets-Jules Verne-like vibe that pervades the experience, mostly to good effect. By the later levels, some might feel like the environments are too similar, but I felt the aesthetic helped this side-scrolling shooter avoid “me too” syndrome.
The audio is sparse, with minimalist weapon effects and faint music helping further the lonely solitude in the plot – 96% of the world is gone and buried at sea, after all. Those who survived are few and far between. Personally, I would have loved to see more exposition as to why I was fighting my way through thousands of biomechanical creatures, but it seems Pixel Perfex wanted to letting players’ imaginations fill the gaps.
The gameplay is vintage side-scrolling goodness, replete with increasingly powerful weapons, environmental obstacles, and endless throngs of enemies which grow in size and ability as the game progresses. However, while the difficulty grows steadily, there are some unexpected spikes of near impossibility.
As the game progresses, players will inherit new submarines, each with advancing levels of weaponry and maneuverability. While some creative power-ups like lightning and stronger missiles are welcome, the basic gameplay rarely changes so there’s not as much skill involved as one might expect. Also, it’s worth noting that the standard missile attack is the most reliable, which diminishes the value of the other weapons a bit.
Thankfully, the available difficulty settings are notably different, so newcomers won’t get frustrated and experts won’t get bored. On the lower difficulties, defeated enemies spew ammo and health boosts like they’re going out of style. However, boss battles are tough as heck, no matter which level players choose. Not only do these increasingly-massive enemies seem to anticipate players’ movements, but hits result in collected power-ups being lost and strewn around the screen. The resulting frantic movements to avoid attacks and regain health can be thrilling or frustrating, depending on a player’s tolerance for this type of action.
Though the bosses are tough, what’s tougher is the navigation. Though there’s a minimap in the top corner of the screen, there are few, if any onscreen cues telling players where to go next. As such, people can expect lots of backtracking in later levels, since a lot of the environmental designs begin to blend together. I should say that the inclusion of famous landmarks and monuments makes for some nice changes of scenery, though I’m not sure how the Statue of Liberty ever floated that far away.
Despite the eco-premise and the catchy visuals, Earth Atlantis is a straightforward, side-scrolling shooter which will appeal to fans of the genre, but what’s here might not be enough to convince newcomers to come aboard. The lack of a strong narrative hurts it as well. Still, this sharp-looking piece of faux nostalgia offers a lot of gameplay, and some daunting challenge to go along with it. Dive in!
Disclosures: This game is developed by Pixel Perfex and published by Headup Games. It is currently available on iOS, Nintendo Switch, PS4, XBO and Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Fantasy Violence. When defeated, robotic sea life explodes into a cloud, but there’s nothing here more graphic than that.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Background music is sparse, only intensifying during boss fights, but there are no sound cues that help the player. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.