Earth Atlantis (Switch eShop) Review
In a long line of indie Switch releases, Earth Atlantis stands out as one of the few bullet hell games available on the platform. What’s specifically striking about this game is that it’s not just any old bullet hell, but a hybrid that mixes in exploration, in the form of an underwater Metroidvania. The big question here is, is this a combination that works as well as it sounds? Well, the answer to that is a little complicated.
In a post-apocalyptic world that’s been submerged in water, you take on the role of a hunter whose job is to track down and defeat a variety of mechanical sea monsters who have been infesting the ocean. Having this premise pair up with one of the most interesting and creative aesthetics I’ve ever seen in any video game made for a wonderfully intriguing first impression.
The game presents itself in a way that makes you feel like you’re exploring a map straight from the 19th century. It even goes as far as to feature a colour scheme akin to aged paper, with the only hues shown being on the light spectrum of tinged browns. At first, it’s very likely to blow you away, with backgrounds containing some highly detailed, ruined remnants of the real world. You’ll see things such as the Statue of Liberty, ancient Greek buildings, and mansions littered about — with the only remaining inhabitants being the many creatures you’ll find roaming around.
There are three difficulty settings for you to pick from: Easy, Normal and Hard. Simple enough. I initially attempted Normal mode, as that’s the difficulty I tend to default to. Best to play the game the way it was designed, right? Unfortunately, I soon ran into a bit of a road block. This game was way too tough for me. As soon as I encountered the very first boss, I was pummelled in seconds. I thought, ‘okay, no big deal. Let’s give it another go’. After a dozen or so attempts, I figured that maybe it might be best to just swallow my pride and turn it down to Easy — and so I did, and found myself having a much more enjoyable experience. Learning boss patterns became a lot more feasible, and exploring the map became a lot more appealing than it once did.
That’s not to say that the Normal difficulty is bad or anything. I get what bullet hell games are meant to be like. It’s even in the genre’s name. The tough and punishing experience the game provides is one I’m sure bullet hell aficionados will eat right up. It just wasn’t the sort of experience for me. It’s why I always appreciate when games provide Easy modes, and that’s no exception here.
A bit of a problem present throughout stems from the game’s hybrid nature. What makes Metroidvanias so enticing and engaging is their explorative element. Whether it’s a castle, deep in the mines, or on an unknown planet, it’s always so satisfying to uncover the map, find secrets and unravel the labyrinth that’s given to you. It’s sad to say, that this is where Earth Atlantis stumbles. On the journey to tracking down the next boss, you’ll find your path plagued with a plethora of smaller monsters. Taking down these enemies isn’t any trouble.
Their patterns are relatively simple and easy to avoid, and it’s only a matter of seconds before you’ve defeated them. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you start noticing how often they spawn (and respawn). You’ll see at least a few critters pop up every few moments. It’s not so bad at first, but as you make your way to the latter end of the game, the quantity of enemies gradually increases. Akin to shooing away flies in the summertime, it gets really frustrating. Considering that this was my impression based on Easy, I can’t imagine what it must feel like in the tougher difficulties.
The bosses themselves are a part of the game where I have some mixed feelings about. During half the time I spent with Earth Atlantis, discovering new bosses was thrilling. I usually couldn’t wait to see what kind of gargantuan I would encounter next. They’re larger redesigned versions of the more common enemies you would usually encounter, but the great art direction winds up giving them a much more menacing presence than their smaller counterparts. However, as you reach the second half of the game, the bosses start becoming tougher palette swaps of ones seen earlier. While not a huge deal, it’s really a bit of a let down, and wound up making me wonder if it was only done to pad everything out.
After completing the game, the game grants access to Hunter Mode, which serves as a time trial boss rush for the more hardcore fans. This is a great addition for budding speedrunners, and really complements the essence that Earth Atlantis has at its core. It works as a neat reward and is an efficient way to offer replay value for those who happen to be chomping at the bit for more reasons to dive right back in.
Earth Atlantis is a fascinatingly experimental hybrid of a game. While not entirely perfect in its attempt to merge the two genres it takes inspiration from, a unique art style and interesting creature designs definitely make it worth checking out. Even more so if you’re hungry for some bullet hell action on the go!
Rating: 3 / 5
- Great art direction
- Replay value
- Bogged down exploration
- Feels a bit shallow