It took quite some time, but I can finally say that I have now played a game that draws inspiration from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a book I had to read way back in middle school. Earth Atlantis takes the general aesthetic of that book and makes a stylistic shoot ’em up where the player goes around hunting giant sea monsters. It sounds great on paper, but the game definitely has its fair share of issues.
Nice art style. Right off the bat, the most notable thing about Earth Atlantis is the unique art style it goes for. It is played as if you were looking at an old paper map, with shades of brown making up the entire color palette. On top of that, the game draws inspiration from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, even going so far as to name its primary submarine Nautilus. The monsters, vessels, and environments all fit within this aesthetic and provide for a very cool visual experience, so much so that the art style actually ended up being my favorite thing about the game.
Upgrade system. Earth Atlantis basically plays like a shoot ’em up game. You travel around, killing enemies and defeating bosses all while earning upgrades along the way. What is cool about these upgrades though is the way the game balances them. When defeating certain enemies or shooting sunken barrels, upgrade bubbles will pop out. These bubbles can then be equipped to grant some sort of power-up, be it homing missiles, bouncing bombs, or electricity shots. The more you pick up of the same type of upgrade, the stronger the attack becomes. For example, picking up more bouncing bomb upgrades adds an additional bomb to the attack.
However, if you take damage, you slowly lose these upgrades, reverting back to the base state for each. The same applies to each ships’ regular attack, which can also be upgraded to become stronger over the course of the game. As such, the game encourages you to take as little damage as possible in order to maximize your own damage. Given that health drops are plentiful, this provides a nice reward to those that are more careful when playing — it was a cool way to balance the game’s difficulty.
Lazily-implemented gameplay loop. Earth Atlantis is a game that revolves around exploring the map, finding cool upgrades, and killing bosses. The core gameplay there is fine, but what isn’t cool is how the game lazily inflates its own playtime. Instead of providing new and interesting areas to explore and bosses to fight, the game instead has you traveling back and forth across the same map just to kill the same bosses with slightly upgraded attack patterns. I would often find myself killing a boss in one corner of the map, only for the game to place the next one on the opposite side of the map in an area I had already fully explored. Upon arriving, that boss would end up being the same one I had fought previously, but with an extra lightning attack or some other gimmick to change it up. Eventually, the game gives up on that and just starts throwing waves of regular enemies at you in place of proper boss fights. It felt incredibly lazy and, considering how long it takes to travel between battles, it really felt like a cheap way to make the game seem longer than it actually is.
Lackluster radar feature. Part of the reason why that last con was so detrimental to the experience has to do with the game’s lackluster radar feature. Earth Atlantis does provide the player with a minimap (called radar in the game) that shows the locations of upgrades and bosses, providing a general direction on where to go next. What it does not do, however, is provide anything other than that. The radar does not draw any walls, objects, or anything else that the player can actually see when in-game — it’s simply a blank rectangle scattered with icons. As such, it comes down to the player to memorize the map layout in order to get around to the different bosses. This makes the traveling a lot more painful than it needs to be, as the player ends up spending more time trying to figure out where each tunnel led rather than actually taking on bosses — the fun part of the game. It also definitely does not help that the map is designed like a maze, with some areas requiring the player to travel down an unnecessarily complex path in order to get there. Again, it feels like this was done to inflate the game’s playtime.
Hard to tell projectiles apart. I did praise the game’s art style, but it unfortunately comes with a glaring flaw: that being that it becomes hard to tell friendly projectiles apart from enemy ones. It is not so bad at the start, but once you have a fully upgraded ship and are taking on a screen full of enemies, it just becomes a mess to keep track of what is going on. I ended up dodging my own attacks several times simply because many of them looked the same as enemy attacks. For example, the homing missile upgrade looks almost identical to that of missiles fired by a certain enemy. In a shoot ’em up game like this where there are projectiles everywhere, it is very important that the player be able to identify friend from foe. Earth Atlantis, however, pretty much just fails on that front.
Earth Atlantis may look good, but unfortunately it is brought down by its lazily-implemented gameplay loop, lackluster radar feature, and accessibility issues. I did also like the upgrade system, but I have a hard time recommending the game when such glaring negatives are present. This is definitely the type of game that is just better-off being played on your phone.
You can buy Earth Atlantis on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.