Two favorite films growing up were First Men in the Moon (1964), starring Edward Judd and Lionel Jeffries, and The Time Machine (1960), with Rod Taylor. Based on the works of H. G. Wells, both employed fantastic Victorian-era tech that simply wasn’t possible at the time (or even today).
In like fashion, Atlantis – Sky Patrol offers an alternate-history, sci-fi storyline that could easily serve as the plot for a sequel to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But, that’s as far as the similarities go.
A member of Sky Patrol, you’ve been called in to deal with a deadly threat. Over 100 doomsday devices were discovered and the responsibility for neutralizing these Atlantis-born mechanisms falls on you. Beginning in Canada and moving downward through the United Sates, Mexico and South America, it’s not long before the trail of catastrophic contraptions leads you across the Atlantic to Africa, Europe and all points east until you’ve circled the globe to eliminate every last one.
Yet another Zuma-inspired game, sufficient alterations and additions make Atlantis – Sky Patrol uniquely derivative and not a simple copycat. Your goal? Disable a series of 111 devastating devices, a task that’s not as easy as it sounds in this frenetic marble-matcher.
Each device, or level, is comprised of stationary control parts – sphere generators, meandering tracks and static orbs – and moving defense mechanisms – chains of colored balls. At set intervals, these chains are spit out by generators and make their way along tracks to an exit point. If they reach it, you fail and the game ends (though, progress is saved). To succeed, it’s critical to destroy the static orbs. Once you do, the generators cease operation. At that point, destroy any remaining orbs in motion and the doomsday device is history.
Game control is entirely mouse-driven with your "ship" moved horizontally across the bottom of the screen via the mouse. Clicking the left button fires a colored orb while clicking the right swaps it with the next in sequence. Targets are stationary orbs and moving chains. While the focus should be on fixed orbs, eliminating those stops chain production, play consists of a balancing act between the two.
Static orbs require hits from balls of the same color. Initially, one is enough, but soon two are required. Protective doors that open and close are added eventually, making a hit more difficult. Chains, on the other hand, are destroyed by combining three or more orbs of the same color until all matches are cleared. Oh, by the way, expect moving parts and tilting tracks to thwart your progress on some levels.
Bonuses take two forms in Atlantis – Sky Patrol: machine parts and power ups. When a doomsday device is destroyed, it releases machine parts, coins actually, that you trade for ship upgrades. So, catch as many as possible. Accuracy extends an aim-improving beam, Speed boosts shot velocity, Bonus Magnet augments bonus attraction power, Rewinder increases rewind of the payoff ball (multiplying coins dispensed) and Disruptor increasingly delays the release of new chains. Special "shooting gallery" stages appear every so often, too, allowing you to collect extra coins.
Power ups are used immediately when caught. The Power Ball shoots a single multicolored ball eliminating whatever orb it hits, Rainbow Hammer fires several multicolored balls, Rewind makes chains move backward, Color Scanner destroys all orbs of a single color, Soul of Atlantis annihilates all orbs in a single vertical column and Orichalchum Bomb takes out everything in a fixed radius. Other power ups exist, but you get the idea.
Atlantis – Sky Patrol is a pretty slick release. Its art deco visuals, industrial design, cool particle and steam effects, cinematic retro-evocative soundtrack and addictive game play combine to create an enjoyable experience. In addition to Quest Mode, it offers a pair of two-player alternatives, Team Quest and Competition. Requiring a second mouse, they offer two-player excitement on a single computer. Team Quest, especially fun, follows the exact storyline as the single-player game.
But, it’s the two-player modes that primarily gunk up the works. In Team Quest, player two’s ship always shrouds player one’s when they meet, obscuring it completely. Employing a separate horizontal plane for each ship would have avoided this problem. Meanwhile, Competitive Mode offers just 10 levels of play. Other shortcomings include a weak introduction and integration of story elements, "newspaper" cutscenes that lack interest and story-advancing headlines (rather than "Sky Patrol Saves The Day") and an anticlimactic ending with no significant player reward.
Still, Atlantis – Sky Patrol provides an enjoyable, orb-flinging romp. It falls short of its full potential to involve and reward the player, but manages to engage and entertain nonetheless. So, enlist. Sky Patrol needs you!