Earthnight Review: Dragons, Dragons Everywhere
Earthnight is an endless runner/roguelike set in a world that has been overrun by dragons. You play as two of the world's survivors, Sydney and Stanley, who fight back in any way they can. They, along with a few other remnants of humanity, have taken to space to stay alive.
They've decided to grapple with the dragons in a somewhat hopeless attempt at reclaiming the Earth. At least, that's what I assume they're doing, as their actual motives aren't really covered in the game. In fact, the story barely gets a mention at all; you're simply thrown into things from the start.
Earthnight Review: Dragons, Dragons Everywhere
Before each run, you choose between the two characters. Stanley is a very basic character who simply jumps and bounces on enemy heads; he also wields a knife, which he plunges into dragon heads to take them down. Sydney, on the other hand, double jumps, dashes in mid-air, and has a dragon spirit she uses to kill other dragons.
Not sure how or why she can do these things, but hey.
Earthnight's moment-to-moment gameplay is exactly what you'd expect from an endless runner. For the most part, each run starts with you jumping from your spaceship down to Earth, immediately landing on a dragon. You run across the backs of dragons, picking up items on the way while trying not to get killed by the various little beasties that live on them.
You can bounce off of enemies to stay airborne, and if you chain these jumps together, you regain health.
Once you reach the head of the dragon, you enter a mini-boss battle. This involves tapping the attack button at regular intervals to deal damage. With Stanley, you need to time things as he raises his knife. With Sydney, dealing damage seems a bit more erratic. Her timing changes depending on the kind of dragon you're fighting, too, but the game doesn't do a great job of explaining that. You kind of just have to figure it out.
Once you've killed a dragon, you go into a skydiving phase. Here, you can choose to avoid dragons to get to the next section of the atmosphere, or you can land on other dragons to get extra loot. The run ends if you reach the Earth or die. But since it's easy to make it down, runs can end pretty quickly.
You go back to your spaceship in-between runs. Items you collect get converted into water, and you can spend that and things like dragon eggs on upgrades to your water tank, or on items that you can unlock. Upgrading the water tank is useful because you'll need a larger volume of water to upgrade some of the items you'll unlock. It's a cycle, you see.
Every time you kill a dragon, you collect a part of it. The first time you do this, it will unlock an item you can grab in future runs. These are basically power-ups, things like double jumps. These can be upgraded to give you an even greater advantage in your runs, but finding them is still random, which can make it feel a bit less worthwhile than if you got to choose your power-ups beforehand.
All of this is wrapped in a lovingly hand-painted art style that helps the game pop when compared to basically anything else available. It helps that the music is brilliant as well, although it does make me wish Scott Pilgrim vs The World would come back in game form again.
The thing is, Earthnight is not very fun. The gameplay becomes incredibly repetitive very quickly, and there are plenty of moments where your failure feels less like it's your fault, and more like Earthnight simply wants you dead.
The enemies you face vary in style and function, but all can be dispatched a la Mario — by jumping on their heads. There are enemies who effectively home in on you, enemies who can charge at you from off-screen behind you, and even ones that fire devastating lasers across the screen. There isn't a proper dodge, so you have to hope you're not mid-jump when these things happen, or you're going to take a hit.
The bullet-hell elements in Earthnight make things too cluttered. Because Earthnight never lets you stop, you're constantly jumping up and moving forward in the hope that there will be a clear path. When there are clusters of enemies or the enemies that home in on you, you end up jumping to your death because you can't see far enough.
As a result, gameplay becomes horribly boring very quickly, and it's hard to even feel invested enough to get annoyed with it. There are also some technical issues too, like an unstable framerate and random freezes that make it a chore to play through.
Earthnight Review — The Bottom Line
- Great music
- Dull gameplay loop
- Technical issues
While Earthnight looks and sounds great, the act of playing it isn't very fun, and that somewhat defeats the point of an endless runner. Without a satisfying gameplay loop to keep you coming back for more, it's highly likely that you will play a couple of runs before going off and playing something else.
Also, we should probably just give our world to dragons anyway; it's not like we're treating it very well.
[Note: Cleaversoft provided a copy of Earthnight for the purpose of this review.]