Re-introducing classics to the modern market seems to be an idea that gaming powerhouses like Nintendo and Sega are well aware of, but re-launching nostalgia without improving on a formula is something players know to avoid. Earth Atlantis is a title that perfectly grasps this idea, as during my time with it I found an experience that both kept true to its roots, but innovated immensely to create a god-sent experience.
Earth Atlantis puts players in the shoes of an unnamed submarine pilot who must venture in the ocean’s depths in order to fight recently mechanized creatures who now torment human life. While the game doesn’t develop on this interesting narrative any further, I found that simply giving a bad name to the creatures I was about to fight made for an experience where shooting a lifeless fish suddenly feels ever so morally justifiable.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Earth Atlantis is how It fluidly mixes metroidvania aspects into its overall experience. Whereas most games on the shoot’em up genre tend to have levels, Earth Atlantis is completely open for exploration from the very start, offering diverging paths that can lead to higher rewards or higher risks. This means that everyone’s play-through of Earth Atlantis will be slightly different, which adds to this game’s replay-ability.
For players who aren’t familiar with the metroidvania genre, however, its world’s vastness could make it harder for some players to navigate due to the sheer amount of breaching paths to which players have to choose between. Yet due to how every pathway leads to a rewarding activity, this proved to be another area in which Earth Atlantis’ developers saw a possible challenge with mixing these two genres and implemented a genius idea that ultimately worked fantastically.
Another idea that initially may seem confusing to new players is the ability to pick up upgrades scattered around the world. The abundance of different ways to go about upgrading your vehicle is again what seems worrying at first, but since all abilities are capable of taking out the game’s badies, nothing the player does is “wrong” or “inferior”, motivating discovery.
Adding further to the game’s replay value is Earth Atlantis’ multitude of unlock-able vehicles with varied stats, which allow for a plethora of different advantage and disadvantage combos that can make the overall experience completely different.
Player choice is is really at the core of the Earth Atlantis’ experience. Want to play a relaxing and easy shoot’em up with loads of pickups? Want to suffer and barely reach the end of the game? Want to play nice and steady, neither rushing or slowing down the experience? Since areas can be discovered at any time, there’s no level division or any other kind of barrier that prevents a beginner player to take on the game’s toughest boss. This outside the game’s three different difficulty settings makes Earth Atlantis as easy or difficult players want to make it.
Beyond this unique gameplay look, Earth Atlantis also catches the critic eye for being utterly unique, with a visual style that almost looks completely hand drawn. This makes exploring different regions of this world a blast, as the different locals players can visit during their journey are nearly endless. The same joy can be experienced in the game’s soundtrack, as it is calming during exploration sequences, but can quickly ramp up during tougher fights- something that needless to say changes the tone of the game smoothly yet rapidly.
This uniqueness also runs very pleasantly on the Xbox One, and while my first impressions were that the overall experience would be better on a portable platform like the Nintendo Switch, I quickly grew to appreciate how smooth and beautiful the Xbox One played this specific title. If I could have one complaint, it’s that due to the game’s simplicity, mainly due to its genre, most buttons on the Xbox One controller are left unused, which at times can leave the other buttons feeling like a distraction. This could be solved by allowing players to map power buttons, making it so that all four lettered buttons could be used for shooting for example- but ultimately this distraction does not take away from the otherwise perfect experience.
Another annoyance I witnessed was the exclusion of a co-op mode, something that has made the crucial success of other shoot’em ups. While this could be fixed through an update, the game sadly hasn’t seen many fixes from its developers, who have yet to fully release a Steam version of this game- something that was originally hyped through Steam’s Greenlight program two years ago.
Earth Atlantis not only beautifully reproduces the beloved shoot’em up genre, but it also masterfully includes beloved ideas that made metroidvania classics gain their homes in the hearts of many players. It may have its small annoyances, but Earth Atlantis is a title that deserves to be played for the beauty and artistry it conveys while still being a joy to play from beginning to end.