Waterworld is criminally underrated. I realize there are a ton of plot holes, ridiculous notions and some seriously hammy acting on Kevin Costner’s part, but it’s one of the most realistic ideas of what could happen to the planet in the next century or so. The waters are always rising, the Arctic shelf continues to collapse, and we, as land mammals, aren’t really ready to spend the rest of our life at sea. I also don’t think we’re ready to develop gills and become oil barons, but that’s a different thing. The point is, the world can change to something terrifying with just the addition of a bit more water. And that’s where Earth Atlantis drops us.
The story goes (for Earth Atlantis) is the world is now 96% water due to…pollution, probably. I mean, it’s called The Great Climate Shift, but anything could really be the culprit there. Mankind has suffered and is no longer the dominant species. Weirdly, all the machines and robots that got pulled underwater decided to evolve and change forms, and now the sea is home to a huge number of mechanical beasts that look like clockwork fish. Some of them have become massive things, who essentially terrorize what’s left of humanity on a regular basis. You are a member of a submersible group known simply as “Hunters,” and you seek and destroy the truly brutal machinations in an effort to bring order back into this chaotic world. It’s a cool concept, and it’s pretty good in execution.
I can’t take one step into Earth Atlantis without addressing the art style. I love, LOVE how this game looks. The backgrounds, aquatic life and the boats are all done in a pencil-style that’s very minimalistic and gray scale, giving the effect that I’m looking at things out of DaVinci’s sketchbook, or some furious, first hand account of a new life form that’s been discovered. There’s a good deal of variety in the different fish types, from your traditional steel-jawed barracuda to jellyfish that look like postmodern lamps who’ve become sentient and angry. Everything is supposed to also give the impression that you’re diving amongst the wreckage of the old world, which sort of works. The debris is cool, but sometimes makes it unclear if you can swim to certain areas or not. I couldn’t always tell which were impassable girders and which were easily accessible. Also, the Statue of Liberty underwater just felt a bit hokey. I’m hardpressed to consider another landmark that you could have drowned and still be recognizable, but, as Lady Liberty’s visage was already a reveal the apes used, I would have gone with something else.
Your two basic functions in Earth Atlantis are fire and turn around. Your ship has total mobility underwater, and the ability to turn on a dime and fire the other direction helps give some good strategy for the approaching beasts. As you destroy minor enemies some items will drop, which can either recharge your health, upgrade your main weapon or, on rare occasions, give you a secondary weapon that fires at it’s own speed. One interesting thing was picking up a new alternate weapon caused your ship to release the old weapon, so you could try it out and swap back and forth between which ones you liked best. Personally, the bouncing orbs that the “B” gave you were my favorite, but the main weapon is still the best. Once you collect enough of the powerups, you spit five shots out the front and five out the back, making it so you turn into a destructive entity, able to patrol the Weat ocean near and far in search of the large monsters. Oh, and are they ever large.
The “bosses” you encounter are supersized versions of the enemies you naturally encounter throughout the sea. All have much larger health bars and use a variety of different attacks, ranging from seeking missiles, halos of electricity, and simply ramming into you as hard as possible. This ramming attack is used time after time by many of the beasts and is far, far too effective. On normal and hard difficulty, this usually kills you instantly, leaving you to restart from the last check point. The death system is effective, as you get erased of your powerups and your sub weapons, but not your progress. Still, dying means tacking on another five minutes of finding enough random fish to drop powerups before trying again, because fighting a boss monster without being fully powered is just asking to die. If you can defeat them, you then get a couple of powerups (one new sub weapon) and unlock another area.
In total, there are 38 leviathans to discover in Earth Atlantis, and successfully beating the game at different difficulty levels leads to more ships, which allows for better versatility, and also makes the game significantly easier. The starting ship maxes out at bullets front and back, but each subsequent ship fires at angles as well, effectively eliminating the harm of smaller fish. But the higher difficulty ratings do increase your damage as well as prolonging the bosses’ health, and the “hard” setting finally pushes the game into bullet hell territory, as you aren’t as nimble as you’d like to be in a submarine.
Earth Atlantis is a unique title, both in presentation and execution. I feel like I’d like the game even better if the depth perception issue could be fixed, but that could easily be blamed on my old eyes as blaming the game itself. It looks amazing, it handles well and the concept is really novel, although I still have questions as to how the machines became aquatic. If you’re interested in a new shmup with less focus on bullet weaving and more on blowfish disarming, you’re in for a fantastically fishy treat.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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