[Review] EarthNight – Nintendo Switch

Written by Kevin Orme
  • Developer: Cleaversoft
  • Publisher: Cleaversoft
  • Release Date: 03/12/2019
  • Price: £12.59 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by Cleaversoft

Enter the Dragon

EarthNight is a (nearly) endless runner game from Cleaversoft. As the first game that they have released as a developer, I have to say, it’s a solid entry. The premise has you, as one of two protagonists, seeking to free the world from the tyrannical ruling of dragons by running along their backs and trying to slay them. Couple this with beautiful hand-drawn artwork and you’re in for a great time.

Ride the Dragon

You play the game as one of two protagonists: Sydney, a younger girl who is accompanied by a demon of sorts that helps her attack enemies and slay dragons, or Stanley, a man with a fabulous beard who bears a sword that he also uses to aid in the slaying of monster and dragon. As you begin running on these dragons, you begin to see that in addition to monsters that you can dispatch Goomba-style by jumping on their heads, there are also piles and mounds of treasure that is scattered all over the backs of these enormous dragons. Floating islands are laid out as well to give a more challenging and rewarding path to find more loot as you continue to traverse foe after foe, but each of them are procedurally generated, so you never really know what the layout of each dragon is going to be! It keeps things lively and exciting.

Taking Down Dragons

Each run of the game is fairly simple. You start from your base, a water-collecting ship (water is the main currency in the game) just outside of Earth’s atmosphere. It serves as a place to upgrade power-ups, choose a character and to cash in the items that you collected on your previous runs. From here, you jump out of the ship and begin freefalling towards Earth. Each run will start you on a pre-chosen dragon. When you land on the beast’s back, the music kicks in and you begin running. The dragon’s back rises and falls like the living beast it is and you are free to start jumping and collecting as you please. After a few minutes of enemy-slaying, loot grabbing and generally being awesome, you reach the dragon’s head. Now, at this point, you have traversed an entire stage and you might have seen some larger collectables strewn about. Of these items, you can find up to three dragon eggs. The more of these eggs you collect, the more damage you do to the head as the end of the stage. Finding these eggs is more important than you may originally think though, as there is a time limit to killing each dragon. A small timer starts as soon as you mount it and it’s usually a pretty small amount of time: somewhere between ten to fifteen seconds. So having the ability to do more damage is key to besting the beasts. Upon killing a dragon, you will be awarded with a piece of the dragon which can be traded in for power-ups back at the ship and then it’s off to the next dragon.

At this point, you get to see the tangle of dragons that is covering the Earth. The camera shifts to looking at you from above and you descend on the dragons below. You pick another dragon and you repeat the process.

Each “sphere” the Earth has different dragons and the further down you go, the crazier they get. What starts as simple “colors” of each dragon turns to bizarre varieties. For instance, when I start a new run, I usually get a black or blue dragon. I usually die on a carpet dragon or even sometimes a caterpillar dragon. It gets crazy. Each new area leads to incredible new visuals and music as well as MASSIVELY increased difficulty.

Take the Dragon Challenge

Let’s get one thing straight here: this game is HARD. The first few stages aren’t that bad. You can breeze through them without much effort. The second set of stages add a little bit more of a challenge, but aren’t that much worse. Then there’s effectively a mini-boss dragon that makes things a bit harder. Then, we meet the next two areas. The last sphere before the last area is insanity. However, the last area of the game is dang near impossible. While some might find the later difficulties to be a turn off, for me it becomes a great motivator for learning the ins-and-outs of the enemies and the layouts of each dragon. Given, it’s still frustrating as heck having a great run ended within a few seconds in the later stages, but the gameplay is still great and I had a wonderful time playing it.

Also, this game is one that almost encourages making mistakes and learning from them. As somebody who has played their fair share of runner-type games (specifically the bit.trip Runner series) it’s nice to have more than one hit before you have to start over again. In fact, EarthNight gives you TEN hits before you have to try again. Couple that with the ability to heal after killing a set amount of enemies before hitting the ground, the game is remarkably kind a lot of the time.

Now, this is not to say that I think that the game is entirely fair. Some of the artistic choices in the game, while richly beautiful to look at, make it hard to see what is coming at you a lot of the time. On top of that, sometimes the hitboxes for certain enemies seem to work well at times and then don’t work at all the next time. It can be really frustrating when it seem like a thing should work and then it backfires spectacularly and it kills your run. Thankfully, each run is fairly quick and it looks like you can finish the game in roughly twenty to twenty five minutes, so a death just puts you back a few minutes rather than a few hours.

Double Dragons

Now, you may have seen earlier in this review that I mentioned that there are two characters that you can choose from: Sydney and Stanley. From a surface view, it doesn’t seem like there’s much difference. Both characters kill enemies in the same way and run at the same speed. So what’s the difference? The answer is that Sydney is objectively better in nearly every way. Sydney comes with the ability to double jump as well as to dash in either a straight line or diagonally downwards. In a game where platforms are everywhere and usually just out of normal jumping distance, she is the choice that you should make every time. Now, Stanley has someunique abilities too, but all they gave him as a base character is the ability to do a high jump or a long jump.

At the moment, I have played about 20 hours of the gameand I can say with certainty that I have played as Stanley FOUR times. Sydney comprises the other 35 runs I have attempted. The competition is nearly non-existent. This isn’t to say that he’s not a useful character. The main appeal of Stanley lies in his sword. You see, both characters have different methods of attacking besides the standard head-stomp. Sydney has a malevolent spirit of sorts that she can wrap around herself and attack with, but Stanley has a sword. When Stanley picks up power-ups for this sword, he will automatically attack enemies. It’s a VERY valuable skill, but where his mobility lacks it hardly feels worth it in the end. It’s a shame that adding something as simple as a double jump like Sydney would have made him a much more viable character to play as.

Laying the Dragon to Rest

EarthNight is a great game. The presentation is marvelous, the soundtrack bumpin’, and the experience engaging. I would easily recommend it to anyone who is looking to pick up a relatively cheap game. It’s tough and will certainly give you your money’s worth. I know I certainly had a great time playing it and looking for more power-ups and cool combos. Every new run gives a new chance to rescue mankind from the scourge of the dragons and it keeps me coming back for more.

Pros

  • Soundtrack is fabulous
  • Visuals are top notch and are always a joy to look at
  • When this game gets going, It’s hard to put it down
  • The ability to heal is a welcome addition

Cons

  • Hitboxes are inconsistent and frustrating sometimes
  • Massive difficulty spike
  • Easy to get overwhelmed with stuff on screen

Verdict
I loved this game. Cleaversoft has opened their videogame foray with a solid first entry in what will be a great catalog of games over the years. This is a great game to add to any library and you would do well to buy this at your earliest convenience.
4/5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *