Earth Atlantis: review

  • Format: Switch (version reviewed), PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Headup Games
  • Developer: Pixel Perfex
  • Players: 1
  • Site:
  • Game code provided by the publisher

When the apocalypse finally comes, what form will it take? Nuclear war seems a pretty good bet at the moment, given the fact that the leader of the only nation in history to use nuclear weapons in an act of aggression is in an international willy-waving match with a nuke-armed Eric Cartman. Earth Atlantis proposes a happier possibility, where the world is engulfed by biblical flooding and humanity is almost entirely wiped out. Oh, also, the world is now full of sentient machines that have taken on the appearance of aquatic animals. Why not, eh?

It’s your job in this side-scrolling shooter to get in a little submarine, and shoot the heck out of all these airtight and waterproof robots. You do this in a world brought to life in a unique way, with graphics that give the impression of being hand-drawn on old, yellowed parchment. It’s an unexpected move and, importantly, one that pays off. Visually, it’s unique and memorable. The audio is less impressive; music is nice, and appropriate to the setting; but more sound effects would’ve helped the enemies and the flooded land they inhabit to really pop.

Gameplay is a mix of old-school mechanics and modern leniency. Each time you set off, your weapon is an underpowered pea shooter that ought to be ashamed of itself. Fine for the weakest piranha-style bots, but you’ll quickly begin to struggle the further you go up the electronic food chain. Your weapon can be enhanced through several stages by picking up the appropriate “P” powerup which, like all pickups, can be harvested from fallen enemies (or on rare occasions, found in barrels). You can also find automatically-triggered secondary weapons, such as a homing missile or a bouncing bomb. When you die, you lose all your powerups. This isn’t (usually) a one-hit-kill shooter, though.

You can’t say it looks like any other shooter.

Your little sub has a health bar, and can take multiple hits before biting the dust. The game’s also fairly generous in terms of health drops when you’ve taken damage. You’ll still need to show skill to avoid death, but the real issue comes when facing bosses. They tend to have a one-hit-kill technique in their arsenal, and if you fall foul of it, back to the last checkpoint for you. The checkpoints in Earth Atlantis are pretty far apart, but they do save progress even when you switch the game off. That includes any defeated bosses, too.

Enemies, both big and small, come in a decent variety. A few are little trouble unless you let them get close, but most can easily cause you trouble from a distance. Things are rarely intense enough to warrant the ‘bullet hell’ tag and, to be honest, once you know how each bizarre enemy works, you should be fine. Giant robot fish that shoot rockets, metal blowfish that explode in a shower of spikes when you kill them, electronic jellyfish that chase you, mechanical sea anemones that pump out balls of electric death… all these oddities and more are easily manageable once you get used to them.

Fish and (micro)chips

This brings us back to the issue of the bosses. By and large, they’re likely to be the only consistent challenge that you face. While it makes perfect sense for boss creatures to pose a much tougher challenge than standard torpedo fodder, it messes with the flow of the game somewhat here. The relative lack of challenge between bosses isn’t really a bad thing, as it results in what is almost a relaxing shooter. However, it also results in a situation where you’ll usually cruise between bosses relatively carefree but, once you meet up with the big baddie, things immediately become a hundred times less forgiving. The aforementioned one-hit-kill attacks were perhaps a bad decision. They’re signposted in a way that you can learn; but when they launch they’re lightning-fast, and you rarely have a lot of room for manoeuver.

There still aren’t a huge amount of side-scrolling shooters on the Switch. If you’re keen to get one, and you’re after something that stands out from the crowd, then Earth Atlantis might be what you’re looking for. It might not be entirely sure what sort of shooter it wants to be, but it has a lot to offer.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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