Earth Vs Moon plays as good as the title sounds

Posted: July 9, 2009 in Shooter

“Don’t let Earth get completely destroyed. Although partially destroyed is ok.”

Missile Command was one of my favorite Atari games, and I still remember sitting there after school paddle in hand trying to destroy missiles before they hit the cities I was protecting. Then with the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, Missile Command evolved into a touch shooter which basically a waste of time even for casual gamers. I think I’ve finally found a strong evolution of the 2D Missile Command concept for the platform with Earth Vs Moon. Like the missiles from outer space, this game came from nowhere to deliver a polished alien whooping game that combines nifty battles with a good chunk of Armageddon humor.

The storyline follows the invasion of Earth by the Moon Army, and here I thought we were on friendly terms. The humor is worth pointing out because it’s so prevalent throughout the game. It’s almost a dry humor that strangely reminds me of H.A.L. in the movie “2001” even though there isn’t an orange eye staring at me. Comments will appear that frankly goad you and is most apparent in the Tutorial which I suggest you go through for a good laugh if not for anything else. At certain points in the game, intro and level conclusion scenes appear in the form of front pages from newspapers with relevant headlines.

Visually, the game looks good, and the explosions are lively, although with the frantic gameplay, you probably won’t have much time to admire them. Whether it’s a localized explosion or a chain reaction, there is a sense of satisfaction you get when you complete a mission. Of course with a title such as Earth Vs Moon, you can expect an equally epic soundtrack, although I do turn it and the sound effects down to help with concentration. In general, it’s a well-presented game that makes you want to come back for more.

While the objective is similar to Missile Command, the gameplay Earth Vs Moon is in many ways better and more creatively designed. There are 5 boss battles in this game and few had me wondering how they came up with some of the concepts because they’re twists on other games. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The game consists of 3 play modes: Story Mode, Score Attack and Boss Attack. Story Mode consists of 20 missions which are progressively unlocked. These missions have names such as “Hey, It Got Harder”, “Yep They Split” and my personal favorite “Don’t Probe Me Bro’”. You must complete through Level 8’s “Moon Ball Battle” before unlocking Score Attack. Score Attack is the endurance survival mode where you attempt to survive as long as you can. Another unlockable level is Boss Attack where you to take on specific boss battles to see how quickly you can dispatch them.

Let me make this clear: this game gets tough very quickly. Your defenses consist of 3 stationary satellites located above Earth. Each satellite has limited ammo as illustrated by a health bar below each with shields that can be activated for each individual satellite by tapping on it. In addition to protecting Earth, you also need to protect the satellites because they can also be destroyed. Trust me, Mother Earth is doomed if you lose one of these puppies. Each shield activation uses two ammo so this is one of times where frugality is a virtue. An array of missiles can also be launched simultaneously by dragging a finger across the screen. Again, this puts a dent in ammo supplies so use wisely. These are neat aspects of the game that add a degree of resource management.

At the start of a level, a brief overview provides information on how many missiles or type of weapon enemies have, and how many the satellites have. Sometimes it can look daunting but fear not. The name of the game is chain reaction which illustrates why this is not your basic tap shooter. In fact, Earth Vs Moon involves a nice element of strategy and anticipation. You need to anticipate where enemy ships and missiles are headed and tap accordingly in order to lead defensive missiles. An explosion creates a chain reaction that can destroy other nearby enemies and missiles.

As enemy ships and missiles hit the Earth, obviously it gets charred a bit, but all is not lost. A healing UFO—go figure—will zip across space at every 200k points earned, and depending on if and where you destroy it, that part of the Earth will magically be healed. It’s a little funky, but I’m all for healing naturally or not. What would be ideal in this game is the use of power ups and weapons upgrades. Missiles are fine and dandy, but every so often, I prefer a little more firepower even if only temporary with my coffee. I wonder if the devs would consider giving us the ability to reposition satellites.

There are 5 boss battles, which I have to say are weird, and makes you wonder what the devs were smoking. There is one boss battle “Moon Ball Battle” that combines pong with the space star wars system. Apparently, the Moon people have a ceremonial battle system consisting of dropping a huge ball onto a planet. Of course, your objective is to bounce the ball back towards the mother ship using missiles until you can get it past the ship which literally serves as the opposing paddle. The best part is an alien voice is constantly calling you a cheater through the exercise. Another involves destroying asteroids being shot out of two cannons located on opposite sides of the screen. Don’t get me started on the boss battle that looks like a cross between brick breaker and Peggle. The boss battles are definitely interesting to say the least, and while not easy, they’ll keep you entertained.

At the end of each successfully completed mission, you receive an “Earth Approved Good Job” stamp of approval. Failure will get you the “Epic Failure” moniker, not Earth approved mind you because well, the planet has been destroyed. A scoring page appears, you get a bonus based on how much of the population survives, and missiles remaining, as well as a star rating (up to 5 stars). The game doesn’t have this, but an achievement system would seem to be a natural for Earth Vs Moon because of the variety of levels and provides an opportunity for additional humor.

All in all, Earth Vs Moon is one of the more promising Missile Command-esque games, and for what it is, it offers a creatively intense and in some cases satisfying experience for the casual gamer. It’s really a well-presented, polished game that is impressive for the twists and ideas that it incorporates.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (one of the best 2D Missile Command-type games with impressive visuals and creative concepts; recommended for anyone who likes a good space battle with good mix of humor)

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