Humanity is on its knees, the world as we know it is now submerged deep beneath the dangerous waters where the machines have thrived and evolved into mechanical sea creatures. You are a hunter, and in such profession, you will get into your little submarine and destroy those pesky steampunk aquatic titans once and for all. This is Earth Atlantis, and today, “WE ARE CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE!” Well, trying to make it a little safer at least.
Developed by Pixel Perfex, Earth Atlantis is an exploration-based shoot-em-up where the main objective is to locate and hunt down giant sea monsters with as much artillery as you can muster. Starting off with nothing more than a tiny pea shooter, you aim to destroy schools of evil mechanical fish in hope that they will drop a power-up for you to obtain. These power-ups will begin to enhance your firepower, making you more of a threat. Collect several of them and you will be firing out of both ends of your submarine like the aftermath of that suspiciously cheap kabab from 2:30 in the morning.
As well as your primary gun there’s also a sub-weapon that you can possess by breaking crates and boxes that are located in various spots around the map. These come in various forms such as homing missiles, bouncy bombs and electrical currents. By collecting several of the same type, and in combination with your main weapon upgrades, you will soon be littering the screen with your own bullet hell wrath, massacring any aquatic critters that swim in your way. There are also two more submarine types to unlock, each with a much more powerful starting weapon than your default marine-pop like vessel.
It’s the bosses that are the main draw here though, as each one has its own unique way of sending you into a watery grave as you learn to study their attack pattern so you go all Kirk Douglas on its ass. The bosses are the best part of the game and at times can become quite challenging. It kind of takes a page out of Dark Souls in this regard by the way you respawn from your last save point, ultimately farming the necessary tools needed to earn the right to have another crack. This is because you begin each run again with nothing more than the pea shooter that you started with, which is all well and good as it does make defeating a boss feel very rewarding. However, the grind of it all can soon sink in rather quickly.
The thing is, the barrels and crates that do contain the secondary weapon usually spawn miles away from your starting points. This leads to a good lengthy treasure hunt as you constantly get lost within the topsy-turvy maze that makes up the underworld. Also, if you have a certain sub-weapon that you want to level up, it can take several attempts at smashing boxes to find your desired weapon boost.
You can have a map displayed on the screen if you wish, that shows you nothing more than the locations of sub-weapons and bosses, but because of the maze-like level design you will probably get lost very easily anyway. At least until you begin to learn the layout of the world. Finally, after a good farm-athon, your all armed and ready to go, only to get one-timed by a charging boss that you have been grinding towards for the last 20 minutes. Sending you back to do it all over again from scratch.
The one-hit kill mechanic that the bosses have is thankfully only a real problem with a handful of them, and your submarine can usually take a bit of a beating from most projectiles. The smaller enemies aren’t much of a problem overall, depending on the territory but if you are well armed, taking damage from them can also weaken one of your perks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as such, as it does make the smaller enemies become more of a threat. However, mix that in with everything else and it begins to make the whole process feel like a chore, soul destroying at times even, and a pretty cheap way to add the padding.
On the contrary, there is something actually quite moreish about Earth Atlantis. Finally beating a sea boss does feel very rewarding, especially with all the grinding to show for it. There’s even a logbook to see how many of the 38 major enemies you have slain, persuading you to fill a Pokédex full of beasts. The bosses aren’t always single formed encounters either, with some showing up as a giant swarm of smaller enemies that you must eradicate and there are a few surprises in between to throw you off guard. This leaves each major confrontation feeling quite different with some victories rewarding you by opening up more paths of the world to explore.
The controls are very smooth, allowing you to navigate very tight spaces with your left stick without fault. You can hold your right trigger down to fire both your weapons at once and tap the left trigger to change the direction of where your little sub is facing. You can use the face buttons instead if you desire but, either way, the simple control setup will gel instantly allowing you to dive right in very quickly.
The filtered 3D visuals are what makes this little title stand out. The 14th-century old map yellows that the developers were going for works rather well with everything looking like a drawing from an artist’s Moleskine sketchbook. The layers that make up the background look gorgeous as you see the rotting buildings and girders that are left from times gone. From the cities that used to stand, to smaller villages trying holding on to its perseverance. There’s even a sunken Statue of Liberty present, driving the whole end of the world thing even further. The only issue with this choice of art is that everything can to begin to look a bit samey. Grinding the same waters constantly around the relatively small map that makes up the world, doesn’t really help the matter either.
The music to the track fits very well at first. The boss theme is always pretty awesome throughout, keeping that tension alive. The tune that rides along when you farm is quite relaxing, as is the sound of the sonar hitting a rhythm in time with the melody. The problem is that this tune doesn’t change at all, and after a while, it just sounds like one of the more reclined ringtones built into a Samsung mobile phone, playing over, and over again.
While usually not as chaotic as your typical shoot-em-up of a similar genre, Earth Atlantis does provide a certain unique ambience that is a joy to be a part of. Being maxed out with weaponry feels good, killing a giant sea monster feels great but the clutter that’s in between does eventually feel like work. Which makes this game best played in short burst. If you hunt a monster a day to keep the apocalypse at bay then Earth Atlantis is great fun and well worth a gander, but if you dive in too deep too soon, then you may fatigue long before you reach the surface.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Headup Games