It’s not something that the game truly screams at you, but Earth Atlantis’ core plot revolves around that very real, that very looming threat of climate change. Thousands of years worth of civilization and evolution snapped by mankind’s own ill-treatment of the planet. In Earth Atlantis, ninety six percent of the Earth’s surface now lays underwater. Mankind has finally fallen as a victim of its own neglect and machines now rule in mankind’s stead. It’s an interesting premise to say the least; a mashup of science fiction and first world problems.
Machines have taken on the form of marine life; crabs, octopuses, sharks and other, more towering foes. Players take on the role of a hunter, tasked with seeking out mechanical sea monsters and clearing each area of their threat. Earth Atlantis serves itself as a side-scrolling shooter, set within a design and visual theme that’s not too dislike old-sketching artwork. This design, in fact, is said to be in place to relay the essence of the 14th century, a time in which the ocean was considered a dangerous place full of all sorts of threats and monsters.
By and large, it works extremely well. Though I do question whether or not this intention will be realized by the majority. Still, with that to the side, it’s a very unique looking game that allows for some truly interesting locations. Each new area typically comes with its own threat, with small fry being the most dominant in regards to population. These are pretty easy to dispose of using your submarine’s capabilities, often dropping useful items such as more ammunition or/and health – totally depending on whether you need it at the time.
The game houses a total of four submarines that can be unlocked throughout the game, all of which prove useful when taking on the hordes of mechanical enemies that stand (or swim, to be more specific) in you way. Enemies will come in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to grab powerups for your main guns as well as additional firepower such as homing missiles, rockets and bolts of electricity, upon defeat. This gradual climb in capability doesn’t give way for the game’s difficulty. I quite enjoyed it. It’s challenging, but not overly.
Earth Atlantis doesn’t give you much to go on as far as level-progression is concerned. When starting up, you’re not told where to do and even with the aid of the mini-map in the top corner of the screen, you’ll get no hand-holding from the game. This map does indeed tell you where the ever-spawning enemy is situated, but outside of the informative loading screen, you’re pretty much left in the cold. The enemy variation is top notch, with each housing their own attack patterns and capabilities, though their spawn rate can be tedious.
When you do eventually come face to face with your target (the boss) you can expect a white-knuckle tension-filled encounter. This is where your powerups truly come in handy as each boss tends to put up one hell of a fight. Furthermore, when hit by a boss, your gathered powerups will scatter, meaning that you will need to re-collect them quickly, or accept that you’ve just been made weaker. Once the boss is disposed of, you’ll be taken to another loading screen that shares your level-stats and then sent off in a new area with a new target.
The detail of each location, which tends to include some iconic structures, remains well set throughout, bolstered further by a moody sort of soundtrack that really helps to set the scene. It helps, of course, that the controls are as tight and responsive as you would have hoped them to be. This not only provides a decent play, but ultimately helps when the game shifts from light exploration, to all-out bullet-hell madness. However, with that in mind, some boss encounters, regardless as to how well the game plays, can be overly tough.
It’s not a massive downside and by no means a deal breaker, but I would lying if I said I didn’t feel out unfairly of my depth during some of these encounters. Equally as such, it would have been nice to see the mini-map filled with more clearer insight. Though, even with these issues in mind, there’s no denying that Earth Atlantis is a great deal of fun. Its decent weapon system and its gradually unfolding post-apocalyptic world goes hand in hand to promote one of the most distinct side-scrolling shooters I’ve played in a good while.
Earth Atlantis’ blend of exploration and side-scrolling shooting remains tense, invigorating and well paced throughout the entirety of play. Its unique old-sketch visuals provides a theme that widely sets itself apart from its peers, ultimately producing an adventure that’s as fascinating as it is enticing. There’s a few niggles here and there, but these are easy to forgive in the face of everything that this game gets right.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.