PSX 2016 – EarthNight Preview – Dragon Slayer (PS4)
It’s the dragon apocalypse, and yes, that is as cool and terrifying as it sounds. Humanity has been forced into space and it’s up to Stanley and Sydney to skydive back down to Earth through the atmosphere, battling dragons the entire way. EarthNight is technically classified as a runner, but don’t panic and click away just yet. This is a far more complex runner than a simple mobile game, even if the entire thing is controlled by only two buttons. Easy to learn and hard to master can be a cliched phrase, but it applies with flying dragon colors to EarthNight’s deceptively simple mechanics.
Flying colors is an understatement when it comes to the gorgeous hand painted visuals. Between the skydiving “level select” as you fall through each section of the Earth’s atmosphere and the actual side scrolling running, from the tail end of each dragon to the head, there are some stunning visuals. Each colored dragon represents a different difficulty, filled with smaller beasts to impede your quest to the head, where you proceed to stab the dragon’s eye out, either with a knife as Stanley, or with your hand while possessed by a dragon spirit as Sydney. Yup, she stabs dragons in their eyes with her hand. It’s just as badass as it sounds.
The way they kill the dragons isn’t the only difference between Stanley and Sydney. Each character controls completely different from the other. Stanley could be considered more of an easy mode, with simple controls that are easy to get the hang of but don’t provide nearly as many opportunities for massive combos. Sydney has more complexity and nuance in her jump, the double jump reacting differently depending on where you press it in the arc. It’s not easy to get the hang of her controls, but every once in a while during the demo, I was able to catch a moment of enlightenment and make an insanely cool combo.
EarthNight is extremely fast paced though, and those moments of control clarity were lost as quickly as they came, particularly because I didn’t have more than 15 minutes to sit down and take on these dragons. I was only able to make one run. Perhaps with more time, I could improve my skills. In fact, if I ever want to beat EarthNight after it releases, I will have to. See, EarthNight doesn’t have the ability to save or any checkpoints at all. The entire game can reportedly be completed in about 30 minutes, but the difficulty ramps up the closer to Earth you get. Cleaversoft is counting on their game to be near unbeatable except with a lot of time spent on mastery of the simple two button controls. They consider leveling up within the game to be the leveling up of your own skills every time you play.
I’m always fascinated by simple games that can hide a massive layer of complexity underneath the surface. If you told me that I would be itching to play more of a runner without any kind of save system or level-up mechanic, I’d say you were a little crazy. Yet that’s exactly what happened the moment I walked away from the EarthNight booth at PSX. I can’t wait to try it out again. I’ve spent time thinking of potential strategies and working myself up into a hype of actually completing EarthNight one day and saving the entire planet from the dragon apocalypse.