The second Switch release by publisher Headup Games, after the deliciously infuriating Slime-San, Earth Atlantis is a breath of fresh air in what is considered one of the most uninspired and least innovative genres in gaming, the shoot-em-up genre.
There’s not much you can do in this genre, especially when you consider what’s already available for the Switch. You have the classic Neo Geo shooters at your disposable, as well as Graceful Explosion Machine, a nice but definitely not very innovative looped shooter, just like Fantasy Zone or Defender. But Earth Atlantis does things differently. First of all, there are no actual levels. There’s one big open map in which all the action takes place. Your objective is simple: keep exploring the map and hunt down a certain amount of big bosses, in a pseudo “Ecco the Dolphin meets Monster Hunter” style of gameplay. The game isn’t exactly long per se, but the fact there are lots of unlockable ships, each one with different attributes and playstyles, encourages you to play the game in its entirety more than once.
Right off the bat, the most noticeable aspects in Earth Atlantis are its setting and visuals. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth in which nearly all landmass has been taken over by melted polar caps. Robots have taken the shape of sea animals and it’s up to you to hunt them down. The game takes place under water, and you can constantly see drowned landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty. Its graphics are, at the very least, unique. Everything is drawn like an old map, with a distinct beige color palette and lack of proper shadows. Everything is polygonal, but the art style can easily fool you into believing the game was hand-drawn. While the visuals are indeed pleasing to look at, they are also a major flaw. Take a look at some at the pictures in this article and you’ll notice how easy it is to not be able to properly detect an enemy if it’s not swimming at you. Given the complete lack of shadows, a lot of enemies, items and traps simple blend in with the background, making it incredibly annoying for you to pay attention to your surroundings. More than once have I noticed an enemy only after it attacked me. The fact you need to press a button to turn your ship around and properly aim at your enemies when you’re not fully equipped with powerups didn’t help me either.
All criticisms aside, if there’s one aspect in this that deserves praise it’s the soundtrack. While there aren’t many songs included in it, the few that are here are a blast. The contrast between serene exploration themes and fully orchestrated and dramatic boss battle tunes was a welcome addition.
No one can deny the fact that Earth Atlantis, for better of for worse, is indeed an innovative take on the shoot-em-up genre, both with its visuals (which are both the game’s main draw and main flaw) and open-ended structure. The game isn’t quite long, but it does feature a very simple gameplay and enough unlockables to promote multiple playthroughs. If you’re tired of the Neo Geo shooters, as well as Graceful Explosion Machine, then Earth Atlantis isn’t exactly a bad choice. Just remember not to expect a mind-blowing shooter in any way.
Also available on: PC