Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game Review: Atlantis

This time around, I'm reviewing the free Flash game Atlantis.

Atlantis is a fun game which...

...whoops, wrong Atlantis.

No, here we go.

By the way, they could probably have avoided using the Space bar altogether, since this is the only time in the game they use it for anything. I don't really see why they used it here.

Anyhow, you're briefly barraged with a Star Wars style scrolling infodump, which you can skip if you want. Here it is.

Hm, the rebels call themselves Red Baron? This is curious. Why...?

Oh, look, you pilot a white robot.

Just call him Snoopy.

Anyway, you start the game docked to the Atlantis, which is a huge freaking mothership which will tend to your every need.

Out of ammo? Badly damaged? Need bigger guns? Atlantis will provide with its reload and upgrade stations.

The ship also automatically charges its main cannon (you won't get to use it often, so save it up) and the pool of energy it uses for upgrades, which obviously is convenient. (You get more energy when enemies blow up, as well.)

Also present are three Mermaids, smallish escort vessels which constantly hover near the Atlantis, protecting the mothership while you run around killing stuff.

Yes, they're called Mermaids. Pretty weird...

...but they're effective enough. (The orange beams come from the Mermaids.) What's even better is that you can replace them when they're destroyed, and even upgrade them as a group-and they do their job without any input from you. (You can also upgrade and repair the Atlantis, but since they're the most expensive upgrades in the game, I've never had the chance to.)

Anyway, let's get to the actual combat.

The little blue line is a "phaser" shot from your rifle, the blue teardrops with circles are missiles, and the little orange flecks are "head vulcan" shots. (The rifle is the most flexible weapon. Missiles are probably the most consistent, and home in on the nearest target-meaning you theoretically can hit two relatively distant enemies at once. The head vulcan is pretty much the last weapon to run out of ammo-in fact, I've never actually run out-and is also nearly useless.)

The interface is simple; you can turn your various weapons on and off, you can cycle through your rifle's three modes, etc. Don't worry too much-the game seems to think you should worry about conserving ammo, but I don't see why, since all you have to do to replenish it is go back to the Atlantis for a minute.

The simple and elegant portion of gameplay, which is what makes it addictive, is that you steer with the arrow keys, aim with the mouse, and shoot with the left mouse button. This means you can dodge and bob around while keeping your weapons locked on target.

Your most important weapon is the rifle, mainly because of its flexibility. In addition to its rather weak "phaser" shots, it can also fire a powerful continuous laser.

The laser can punch through multiple targets, letting you hit a lot of guys at once, and can also be swept back and forth across multiple targets. Since it does damage continuously, it is devastating; however, it also uses up your ammunition very quickly.

Something of a compromise is the "blaster."

(The little clustered green shots are the "blast.") The "blaster" mode is the one that I use the most, because it doesn't suck up quite as much energy as the laser, but does a lot more damage than the phaser. It's also convenient because it is more likely to use up your ammo at the same rate as your missile ammunition, meaning that you aren't wasting time at the reload station.

There are a lot of different kinds of enemies, but relatively few of them are distinctive enough to really pay attention to.

First up are these... guys.

I don't know what's up with them, but they seem to do more damage than a lot of the stupid robot enemies, so keep an eye out for them.

Then there are the enemy ships, which are a teeny bit bigger than the Mermaids.

While the Mermaids outgun them, I'd suggest concentrating fire on them, especially laser mode if you can.

The next enemy is one of two types that are probably purely meant to annoy you.

These little buggers hide near the bottom of the screen and shoot salvos of some kind of red thing at your ships. The Mermaids can't reach them with their guns, so you have to hunt them down when you start seeing the little red blasts.

The next kind of pest is actually a useful pest.

These little plane things only attack you. Since enemies come in discrete waves, if you let these guys live for extended periods, it gives you time to build up the main cannon charge and the Atlantis's energy pool, and you can relax in the repair bay, where you don't even have to worry about dying accidentally if you stop paying attention.

And since they're fast, hard-to-hit little so-and-sos, it's really easy to let them live for a long time.

Then there's the truly nasty enemy, the big ship.

This is what the main cannon is for. Save up, because you're not going to get a chance to let it recharge once these things show up. (I'd show you what the main gun's discharge looks like, but it's a bit tricky, and anyway, it just looks like the blast that the enemy heavy is firing there. Only much bigger.)

If you do save up your main gun, you may be able to take care of this big beast. It's a lot less likely that you'll be able to beat one without it, though I did manage it once right before losing. Emphasis on may-I've only gotten past the first one once. (Hint-save up your energy pool, and get an armor upgrade before your weapon upgrades. But be careful playing it this way-I barely got the armor upgrade in time myself.) And even then, don't get too cocky-later you need to fight two at once.

Near as I can tell, this is a survival game-you just try to live as long as possible, and if you fail, oh well. If you survive for a long time, the music changes from pretty decent to awesome. But when this change happens, watch out, because the enemies get much more numerous and aggressive. And then this happens.

Obviously, even with this, you can waste a lot of time playing this game. Its easy interface and interesting gameplay make it a lot of fun. I recommend it.

-Signing off.

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