When we sit around and talk about games and our favorite genres, shoot’em ups is typically not the first one out of my mouth. First person shooter, maybe. Not the craft or arcade shooter where you control your little ship and everything comes at you from all sides and your goal is to survive to the end of the level. There has been a resurgence in these types of games over the past few years, but I’m not sure there are very many titles like Earth Atlantis where it’s part shooter and part adventure. I have to admit that I’m pretty excited when genres are busted or when the development teams come up with a new twist that either is completely unique or at least unique enough that we have a difficult time coming up with other titles like it.
Instead of deep space, you control a submarine in the hopefully distant future. Almost the entire earth is covered with water and machines have taken on the likenesses of sea creatures and monsters. The submarine is fitted with a single-shot weapon when you start your adventure, or if you happen to get killed in action. As you meander your way through the underwater labyrinth, you’ll need to blast these machines and try to locate the giant creatures that are causing major problems for what remains of the civilization on our submerged home planet. Destroying them reveals power-up bubbles that will increase the strength of your sub’s weapons, making the destruction of these nasty machines much easier. If the sub is damaged, you’ll need to seek out health replenishment bubbles, which you’ll need a lot of because the game is very difficult.
There is a map in the upper left corner of the screen that gives the general location of our sub and the location of where certain mega power-up barrels and crates are within this crazy maze we find ourselves in. It’s just a rectangle boarder with white dots in it, not unlike something from classic arcade games like Defender. In other words, it’s not going to show detailed topography to navigate the area, and it can be toggled on or off.
The control of our submarine is about as tight as it can be. There are certain shooters where the ship controls a little lazy or loose. You could argue that a submarine under water would not react that quickly to controls, but honestly I don’t think we’re shooting for realism here. I also appreciated the developers’ decision to not make the rocks and walls damage our ship when we run into them. The only things that can hurt your ship are the machines themselves, the projectiles they spew at us with reckless abandon, or the tethered mines. You can also turn the vehicle so that the bow is either pointed to the right or left depending on how you’d like to tackle the enemies. The weapons do, at a certain power level, shoot bullets out of the aft as well as the bow, but until the craft is completely powered up, the bow’s weapons array is always a bit stronger than the aft. You can also just hold down the fire button, which will fire the weapons as quickly as possible. This is mapped to both the ZR trigger and the A button on the face of the controller. I found this to be an awesome idea because my index finger would start to feel funky and I could then switch to my thumb and hold down the A button and vice versa.
The mega power-ups that are scattered throughout the map are one of several varieties. All of them have 4 stages of power or firing capacity. The bombs start with one shooting out of the upper bow and come off at roughly a 30 degree angle. The second tier gives you one from the bow shooting down. Three and four does that for the back end of the vessel. These bombs have the ability to ricochet off the walls and can fill a smaller cavern with a hornet’s nest of crazy bouncing bombs. You can also get missiles that fire from 1 to 4 torpedoes out the bow of the ship. Homing missiles track the nearest enemy and follow it as much as it can to destroy it. This also has a firing capacity between 1 and 4 missiles at a time. Finally comes my favorite special weapon, the electrical charge. This sweet weapon arcs electricity from the ship and destroys enemies by electrocuting them to destruction. If one knows of Tesla coils or perhaps that globe where the electricity emits from the center to the outer glass dome when we put our hands on it, then you have a pretty good idea of how that looks and behaves. The drawback is that you do have to be a bit closer to the enemies to get it to fire, which during the boss battles can be rather difficult to pull off.
The visuals of Earth Atlantis are some of the most unique I’ve seen. It’s almost like you are playing a game that is drawn on a piece of parchment as all the environments are just black lines on a plain background. I likened it to when I was a kid and I’d draw on paper and try to imagine the drawings coming to life on the page. It really works for this game and looks very cool. I won’t knock it for choosing an art style and doing it quite well. Some may be put off by the lack of colors and such, but it does work for this game and wouldn’t really add that much if it were beautifully colored or had three-dimensional effects. The focus on this game is precise gameplay and it has that in spades, but it is an extremely challenging adventure that can get pretty frustrating at times.
I don’t have a lot of gripes about Earth Atlantis, but one of the most glaring problems I have is the big mechanical monsters that are the centerpiece of the game. They are large bosses that take a bit of time and finesse to destroy. Add to it that it takes quite some time to power up your ship and get the maximum firing energy for both your main and special weapons. Some of these giant contraptions have an attack that will destroy your ship in one hit. I will use the octopus-type machine as an example. It has tentacles that shoot up from the sea bed and try to skewer your craft to defeat you. If it does hit, even if you have full health, your ship blows up. If you just respawned right at the point of which you blew up, still having those power ups that you fought really hard to attain, this would be more of a minor annoyance than anything. However, this sets you back to the starting point that you last pinged with your craft and takes away all your power-ups and special weapons. Really? Now you take at least another half hour or more to try and power your ship back up again and locate the special weapons you need to try the battle over anew.
There really isn’t a lot to be said about the music or sounds for this game. The music is pretty cool, but doesn’t seem to have a lot of variety and felt like it was just one track the entire time. The other noises like bomb destruction are about what we’d expect and nothing very special. I think they could have done quite a bit more with the audible portion of the game. So if you’re not able to play with headphones or the volume on, you won’t really be missing anything.
Earth Atlantis is a fun adventure that can be very difficult at times and also a bit frustrating. The graphics are a unique art style and I have to admit that I was rather taken in by this game more than I thought I might be. When I saw the trailers and the colorless graphics I questioned why I would want to play it. I’m glad that I did and can now give others the knowledge that it is a solid game and one that makes the library of the Switch quite a bit stronger. It’s also inexpensive, coming in at $14.99, compared to the $60 titles that might cause buyer’s remorse if you don’t like them. All said it has few problems with one of them being that major “one hit kill”.