When it comes to dual-stick space shooters, two games stand above the rest: Isotope and Meteor Blitz. Isotope for its labyrinthine stages, enemy variety, and nuanced ship selection; Meteor Blitz for its polish, tack-sharp controls and stunning visuals.
Earth Is Gone, by NubsterSoft, is a new kid on the block. And while it doesn’t quite live up to either of the above titles, it manages to elbow its way through the slush and to stand out in a crowded genre.
In most ways, Earth Is Gone adhere’s to the conventions of its genre. Two input areas at the lower left and right allow you to move and shoot in any direction, while three buttons across the bottom of the screen allow you to drop a bomb, set of an EMP blast to paralyze foes, and repair your ship. Once used, these abilities must recharge before they can be used again.
Presently, the game supports single-player play and a Survival mode, though the selection screen would seem to indicate that new modes may be introduced in future updates. The object of the game is simply to survive for as long as possible against waves of attackers, each wave more challenging than the last. At the end of each wave, a massive boss ship appears and must be defeated to advance.
Presentation: Earth Is Gone is polished and attractive. Ships are nicely designed, and the game makes good use of color. Parallax scrolling effects give two-dimensional space a feeling of depth. The sound and music provide good accompaniment to the action.
Controls: The game’s controls are very tight, and movement is smooth. The player ship is responsive and easy to maneuver.
Power-ups & Abilities: At any time, your ship can drop a time-bomb, paralyze foes with an EMP blast or repair damage. During the course of play, you can also pick up a powerful spread shot, a concentrated laser beam, shields and wingmen who will attack alongside you.
Repetitive: There are only five ships in Earth Is Gone. The player can choose to play as any one of the five, and can also select the color of the ships thruster discharge. The same ships appear as the only enemies in the game, and boss ships are exactly the same, only much larger. Bosses mix up their attacks a little, but ships mostly behave the same regardless of their appearance. The game’s challenge comes not in the variety of opposition, but only in their increasing numbers with each wave. Other than ships, there are asteroids to blast and not much else going on.
Broken down and analyzed, Earth Is Gone is a fairly standard dual-stick space shooter. It’s not as fast paced as Geometry Wars, as slick as Meteor Blitz, or as diverse or deep as Isotope. But it’s an attractive title with solid controls and room to grow. It nails the basics in ways that many similar games fail to grasp, and it remains now to see in what other directions the developers might take the game. If updates come and bring with them additional play modes, social network integration, and more enemy and stage variety, I could see this game becoming very shiny indeed. As it stands, it’s a good start, but feels a little short on content, as if unfinished. The asking price is a bit high for what’s currently on offer, but the lite version is definitely worth some hands-on time.
EDIT: The developer has informed me that more updates are planned. They intend to add new single-player modes, such as a boss run mode a mode where you must protect targets from incoming asteroids. They also plan to add new ships and bosses to the game, and more backgrounds. Once the single-player mode has been adequately beefed up and polished, they say they’d like to add multiplayer support.