If you dig "steampunk" – that special blend of widget-happy, Victorian-era science-fiction immortalized in films like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the works of author H.G. Wells – then get ready to rejoice.
Chances are you’ll love Atlantis – Sky Patrol, an eye-catching new diversion debuting next week from Big Fish Studios that celebrates the joys of the genre’s singular, neo-industrialized aesthetic and eye for wild, wacky inventions.
A sequel to Funpause’s (and now part of Big Fish Studios) popular Atlantis, the title expands upon its predecessor’s ball-matching mayhem and catchy theme, concerning the hunt for fabled technology. Here, instead, you’re attempting to save the world from a series of doomsday devices, each rumored to be the resulting product of revolutionary discoveries made in the fabled sunken city.
Three modes of play are offered at the outset.
Quest sees enthusiasts wandering a map of the known world dismantling these disasters in the making. Team Quest lets two would-be heroes venture forth together, provided they have access to a second mouse. Last, but not least, is Competition, which further ups the ante by providing support for two-player head-to-head action on the same PC.
Short on friends – and extra computer peripherals – our hands-on time with an early build was spent primarily exploring the title’s solo tale. Zipping between Angola and Bolivia, Winnipeg and Wyoming though, we soon found ourselves frantically mashing buttons, enthralled by what the outing has to offer.
Each stage (supposed to represent the face of a doomsday device) features a corkscrewing length of pipe. Colored spheres also dot the background at various intervals. At the bottom of the screen sits a winged aircraft you control. To move horizontally, just slide the mouse in the appropriate direction. Left click to fire multicolored balls or right click to choose a different shade of ammunition.
Traveling the aforementioned pathways are chains of varying-hued balls, which pass as defense mechanisms. Their purpose: To stop you from destroying stationary control parts – the spheres mentioned above, which can be eliminated by striking each with a single, like-colored ball – by blocking your assaults. (Blasting control parts with balls of an incorrect color simply causes your shot to disappear, while chains absorb them, creating additional hazards to eliminate.)
When all control parts are destroyed, the machine, set to generate new groups of balls at specific timed intervals, stops producing fresh obstacles. After eliminating remaining defenses – to whittle down chains, simply aim shots so as to create patterns of three or more adjacent, similarly-colored balls, which disappear on contact – the level ends. (Fail to stop chains before they reach the end of the tunnel, and you lose – a goal occasionally made tougher by bumpers and sections of track which tilt your cannon at an odd angle.)
Collectible coins then rain down, signaling a job well done. Surprisingly, currency can be used to permanently upgrade your gunship between levels, making forward progress that much easier.
Unlike falling power-ups – bursts of electricity, hyper-explosive bombs, scanners that scroll down the screen eliminating all similarly-hued balls – which evoke immediate effects when caught, such enhancements produce subtle, but no less eye-catching results.
Invest in accuracy, and a continuous light beam helps guide your aim. Spring for greater speed, and you’ll shoot faster. Grab a bonus magnet, and coins and power-ups actually shift direction in midair as they rain from above, inexorably drawn towards your vessel. Still other improvements cause chains to rewind or disrupt devices’ defense mechanisms, forcing the game to wait longer before generating new targets.
Excited to augment your powers? Rest assured you will be after playing periodic coin-rich bonus stages which take the form of straightforward, arcade-style shooting galleries.
What’s more, we suspect you’ll not only be surprised by the title’s play mechanics, but polished presentation as well.
Production values appear singularly high, with special effects such as shimmering sparkles, roaring flames and steam-belching pipes all presented and accounted for. The backing soundtrack doesn’t appear too shabby either, offering a cinematic accompaniment to the action.
While we can’t say for sure how the finished product will look – although, in fairness, the game seems fairly complete as is – Atlantis – Sky Patrol already has yours truly waiting with baited breath.
Whether or not the title actually delivers on its promises of whiz-bang gadgetry and heart-stopping excitement, one thing’s certain. It’s sure to stand out in a crowded field (and, possibly, cause a major ruckus) upon launching shortly.