New game concepts that capture my imagination are few or far between these days, but EarthNight is one of them. Running across the back of a dragon in order to get to his head so that you can stab him repeatedly just sounds too much like a dream. Thankfully, I got a chance to try this eclectic new indie game on the show floor of E3 this year.
EarthNight's story is simultaneously simple and yet unimaginable. Humans have been cast off of their own planet's surface by an army of floating, winding serpents. The two remaining humans - a grizzled old man and a young girl - are living out their days inside a satellite in orbit of the Earth when they decide to take the fight to the dragons. After choosing one of these characters they fling themselves out of the satellite in an attempt to fight their way to the Earth's surface and kill as many dragons as they can on the way.
Perhaps the starkest representation of this concept is the level select screen. As you sky dive down to the planet, a plethora of swirling dragons entwine below and you choose your next opponent by steering towards one of them. I was told that the type of dragon you choose (based on color) was a part of the strategy of EarthNight; some dragons will have more healing items whilst others will be more challenging. Defeating each color of dragon for the first time unlocks items for later runs.
Traveling from the tail of the dragon to the head is where the real challenge begins. If you choose the old man the controls are simple. “X” jumps and the d-pad acts a brake/anchor that slows your character down. The jump can be incredibly floaty and difficult to get used to (you are in space after all), so keeping your character bouncing on enemy heads instead of plowing into them can be a difficult task.
The young girl has a more difficult control scheme. She can double jump without any kind of power-ups but the type of double jump depends on where she is in the first jump. Jumping early will send her screaming forward, jumping near the middle will net you a standard double jump, and jumping late results in a dive bomb. Finally, her “anchor” button actually speeds her up instead of slowing her down. I could definitely see it being a rewarding playstyle to master, even if it sounds overly complicated at first glance.
Killing the dragon once you get to his head is always the end goal, but doing that can be pretty difficult. Three eggs on each dragon's back can be collected to increase the damage dealt, and these seemed pretty much necessary if you want to actually kill the dragon.
As you work your way through dragons you'll pass through the different layers of the atmosphere and then get closer and closer to your final goal. This encompasses eight different worlds, with increasing difficulty, but if you remain diligent you might just get to see one of the game's multiple endings. Yes, there is an actual ending to this Runner. How many people will actually see the end once EarthNight releases on PS4 in 2015 is another question altogether.