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Back to Earth 2

Score: 80%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Alawar
Developer: Alawar
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Unless theyíre working under Nazi-like computer limitations, most office computers have at least one game on them. Iím not talking about Doom 3 or other high-profile games, but simple games like Bejeweled and Snood. Back to Earth 2 is another one of these simple time-wasters. The game is easy to get into, but is not as solid of a game as other available games.

As with most download-only games, Back to Earth 2 is developed to run on just about any machine. Visually, the game has a clean look that is loaded with special effects. The overall feel of the entire package is more cartoony than realistic, but this doesnít hurt the game. Backgrounds are static with scrolling star fields (and other moving objects), setting the feeling of movement. All of the ships and asteroids are modeled nicely and show off the appropriate shine effects when needed. After engaging your shipís time dilation ability, the screen zooms into the action a little closer while a blur/bloom effect takes effect.

Sound effects are appropriate, while the music leaves something to be desired. This isnít too much of a problem if youíre playing in an office (where you would have the sound turned down anyway). Only two or three tunes are present throughout the entire game and tend to wear on your nerves after the third or fourth rotation.


Gameplay:

Back to Earth 2 is a straightforward shooter in the vein of Galaga or River Raid, making it a nice, nostalgic romp for fans of old school shooters. You take control of a secret starship developed to help liberate the earth from an alien threat. While on the outside, it may look like a standard starfighter, it has the special ability to warp time around it (i.e. bullet-time).

Each of the gameís seven missions is spilt up into four sectors, all of which must be cleared before facing the missionís boss. Action is very reminiscent of other shooters. You fly around shooting down all comers in an intergalactic showdown. As you destroy everything in your way, youíll also come across new weapons, allowing you to dole out even more firepower. Your ship also has the ability to slow down time, which lets you quickly avoid projectiles. The power is a unique addition to the genre, but isnít very helpful. The abundant supply of shield and energy power-ups makes the power obsolete. It would have been fun if more of the gameís challenges were built around this mechanic, but as it is, the ability feels unnecessary.

While the game is fun, it does suffer from one of the main pitfalls that face all shooters. After a level or two, the action tends to drag down and the game becomes dull. There are only a handful of enemies to face and they all follow the same basic patterns. Players with short attention spans, or not a lot of time to game, shouldnít find this to be too much of a problem. However, this will be a turn off to more hardcore gamers. The shortened length doesnít help much either.


Difficulty:

Until the halfway point, Back to Earth 2 is very easy. As previously mentioned, power-ups are easy to come by, almost guaranteeing youíll have full shields and energy most of the game. The first few boss fights are made even easier thanks to an A.I. quirk that allows you to trap the boss in the corner and take few, if any, hits. After the halfway point, the game offers a little more challenge. Power-ups are still easy to find, but the number of ships increases.

Game Mechanics:

If you can use your mouse to click on an icon, youíre halfway to mastering the gameís control scheme. Back to Earth 2 is the epitome of pick-up-and-play. The mouse handles nearly every function of your ship with the exception of selecting weapons -- which is handled by the number keys. By moving the mouse, you can move your ship to anywhere on the screen, giving you enough control to zoom around hails of gunfire and, as is the case more often than not, asteroids. Clicking the left button will fire weapons. Holding down the button unleashes an endless stream of shots from your shipís main machine guns. Pressing the right button activates time dilation.

Each of the new weapons youíll collect over the course of your mission is mapped to the number keys. Weapons can be activated in a solo mode or in combination with another. Your shipís primary weapon is the machine gun which has unlimited ammo. Additional weapons have limited ammo, but refills are as abundant as shield and health pick-ups, so running out is rarely a problem.

Taken for what it is, Back to Earth 2 is a solid shooter. It may lack replay value, but itís still a fun time-waster for the free time between filling out TPS reports and trying to sneak out early. If youíre looking for some simple, arcade-styled shooter action, head on over to Alawarís site and download the demo or pick up the full game.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Pentium-600, 64M RAM, 3M Video 3D
 

Test System:



Windows XP, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, Radeon 9100 128 MB, 40 Gig HD, 640 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c

Microsoft Xbox The Bardís Tale Microsoft Xbox NFL Street 2

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated