Atlantis: Pearls of the Deep
According to Atlantis: Pearls of the Deep, Atlantis was actually a tranquil realm until it was pulled down into the ocean after a terrible disaster struck. However, Atlantis was shielded from destruction by an ancient artifact that the city’s queen rebuilt herself. This game opens with the artifact being destroyed by a secret enemy, which places the city in peril once more. This causes the queen to turn to the mermaids for help by gathering ancient pearls from a nearby ruin. These pearls contain mystic power that may save Atlantis, but only if they can be found in time.
As interesting as this story sounds, it is pretty much forgotten as soon as the game starts. The gameplay is very much the focus of Atlantis: Pearls of the Deep, which is not a bad thing, but could leave players who appreciate a good story with their games somewhat irked. Thankfully, the gameplay is good enough that after a while we barely noticed that the story wasn’t really going anywhere or revealing anything new. Instead, we were focused on the addictive task of clearing away pearls via physics-based match-3 gameplay.
Match-3 games are nothing new and there are already plenty of other titles in the genre, but Atlantis does offer a refreshing take on the formula by having the spheres drop from the top of the screen. The goal is still to match three or more spheres of the same color to make them pop, but the physics, and the fact that the pearls do not stick together, makes things a little more tricky. The levels also start off very simple, but quickly become more elaborate, which makes it harder and harder to accurately land your pearls where you intend to drop them.
The heart of Atlantis: PotD is 105 levels that are spread across seven different chapters. Each chapter features a different background as well as levels that introduces more obstacles and contraptions. Players can complete levels by clearing away all the specially marked pearls, but can earn stars by fulfilling additional criteria, such as clearing away all the pearls and completing the level under a certain time limit.
Up to three stars can be earned per level, and these can be spent unlocking the seven power-ups in the game. The power-ups ranges from a bomb that clears a circle of pearls around it, to lightning that can clear a randomly selection of pearls and rainbow that can clear all pearls of a particular color. These power ups appear randomly while playing after they have been unlocked and can really make a big difference. We like the fact that the game shows you an animation of the power-up in action, so you know exactly what you are spending your hard earned stars on.
In addition to the inverse Puzzle Bobble style main levels, Atlantis also throws a couple of bonus levels at players every now and then. These include Peggle style Pachinko levels where the goal is to snag all the stars as well as very simple hidden object style scenes where players must find and click on specific items hidden in the background. These levels provide a welcome break from the main game, but are not quite as addictive. The main game can be completed in no time, but afterwards there is still fun to be had. Our favorite part is the fifteen challenge levels that open up after completing the game, as these really test your skill and luck. Most of them require a bit more thought to complete compared to the main levels and some of them had us scratching our heads on occasion. Then there is the “Zen” mode, which simply tasks you with clearing all the pearls on the screen at your own pace. As the name suggests, this mode is quite peaceful, but the achievement for completing this mode 1,000 times is sure to give completionists nightmares.
The gameplay for Atlantis: PotD is simple, but addictive and while there are no difficulty options, the levels do become more challenging towards the end. Unlike most match-3 games, it’s impossible to really lose a level, although you can mess things up to the extend that it is better to restart. This is usually the best course of action when you manage to clog up a gear with your pearls, which makes it impossible to get to certain spots. The game also doesn’t penalize you for ditching unwanted pearls into the abyss, but some levels make this impossible, which forces you to deal with everything you are given. The physics can be a little wonky at times and it is easy to abuse the fact that you can launch multiple pearls in quick succession to basically brute force your way through certain levels. The fact that pearls don’t have to be stationary when three or more of them touch also makes things a little easier as the pearls tend to bounce around when launched from a great height. Overall, the game was addictive enough to hook us right to the end and to keep playing the Zen and challenge modes even after finishing all the other levels.
Visually, Atlantis: PotD is a fairly simple looking game, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The game should run on just about anything and keeping the backgrounds simple makes it easier to concentrate on the puzzles without distractions. The game can be played in fullscreen or window modes and you can also disable the “high resolution and detail” as well as “custom cursor” options if you really have an old PC and still want to play. One thing fans of Match-3 games will really appreciate is the option to toggle “colorblind” mode, which is something that a lot of these types of games tend to overlook. The audio is also very basic, with only a limited amount of tunes, but thankfully none of them are annoying. The combination of soothing music and the hypnotic clink of the pearls as they bounce around makes Atlantis: PotD a very relaxing game to play. The game is mouse-controlled and everything works as it should, while the interface is straightforward and easy to navigate. Finally, it’s good to see that the game allows for multiple profiles, so more than one person can play the game without interfering with each others progress.
Overall, Atlantis: Pearls of the Deep is a relaxing and entertaining game that is perfect for chilling with after a long, stressful day. It is also a fun game to play if you want something soothing to pass some time without having to think too much. Some of the more challenging levels can become frustrating due to the amount of obstacles and the erratic way in which the pearls can bounce sometimes, but there is also the Zen mode to unwind with. If you are not a fan of puzzle games, then this is probably not going to be the one that will change your mind, but fans of the genre or anyone who can appreciate a good casual game will definitely get their money’s worth with this one.