Review: Earth Atlantis (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Earth Atlantis (Switch)

By Sairus Delaney

Here there be bullets.
Metroidvania and shoot ‘em up is not a combination I would expect to work very well, but Earth Atlantis somehow manages it, albeit with some occasionally clunky results.

Pixel Perfex’s first foray into console games is set on Earth after an apocalyptic event sees the ocean levels rise and cover virtually all of the planet. The waters are now teeming with massive mechanical sea creatures, and your job as a Hunter is to try to keep them under control.
Graphically, Earth Atlantis is one of the most visually unique games I’ve played in a long time. Using only shades of brown and white, an absolutely gorgeous shader renders everything as if it was sketched in pencil. Combined with large chunky designs on everything from enemies to lasers, the game is always a joy to look at. Often shmups can be visually cluttered, but Earth Atlantis is rarely difficult to understand despite large numbers of objects on screen, even when played undocked.
Gameplay is pretty standard for a shmup. You float around the level shooting dense waves of bullet spewing enemies. As you kill enemies they’ll drop weapon pickups that make your regular guns bigger and better the more you collect. Weapon crates also contain a random sub-weapon, which can be upgraded by picking up more of the same crates. You can only have one sub-weapon equipped at any time so you’ll need to swap them in and out as you go.
In a typical shmup you tend to scroll along a single short level blowing up stuff, but Earth Atlantis takes you down a clever Metroidvania path instead. When you begin the game you are dropped unceremoniously in the middle of a massive single level. A very vague map at the top of the screen will tell you where one or more boss monsters are. You need to navigate to that point and kill whatever you find there, fighting off scores of robotic marine life and collecting power ups as you go. Killing certain bosses will unlock more portions of the map to explore and allow you to hunt more bosses.

In true shmup fashion, these bosses are a massive step up in difficulty from the exploration sections. There’s no shortage of them either. There’s more than 30 bosses to hunt down in total and many of them are difficult enough that they’ll probably take you a few attempts to beat. Of course, a bunch of them are duplicates of earlier bosses with more attack patterns, but there is still a wide variety and some genuinely surprising encounters.
The exploration based gameplay does have its drawbacks though. The order of the bosses you fight is random, and the size of the map means they often spawn quite far apart from each other. Beating one boss on the far left of the map might spawn a boss on the far right, then again on the left, etc. It can take several minutes to traverse the map and regular enemies pose very little actual threat so this becomes a chore quite quickly.

Another related annoyance is how the game handles dying. There are several checkpoints dotted around the map. Whenever you die or start the game up, you respawn at the last one you touched, minus all of your weapon upgrades. Bosses are realistically the only things that will kill you, and they are nigh unkillable without fully powered up weapons. This turns every death into a grindy slog as you farm any nearby enemies for weapon pickups before you can challenge the boss again. This isn’t helped by many of the bosses having surprise one hit kill attacks.

Dying does let you change vehicles however, which adds some variety to the game as each ship fires wildly different bullet patterns. The vehicles themselves are unlocked by defeating those ships in surprise encounters between bosses.
Once you’ve completed the surprisingly lengthy regular game, there’s the boss rush Hunter mode to conquer, which cuts out all of the exploration and just gets right to the boss fights if you’re so inclined, but not much else.
Despite the annoyances with lengthy travel times and grindy boss preparation, Earth Atlantis is a really great game. Beautiful visuals would set this game apart from the crowd without anything else, but a solid gameplay foundation makes this an easy recommendation to anyone who likes a good shoot em up. Being able to drop in and out between bosses makes this a particularly great fit for a portable console like the Switch too.

Final Score: 8

(Review code provided by the publisher)

1 comment:

Dannybiv said...

The visuals here are off the hook! I really dig the style. I'm not sure if I could handle the grindy ride back to bosses after I inevitably die, though!