EarthNight — An Okay Night In

EarthNight, the auto-runner. With the lovely, hand-painted, hand-animated graphics. With the die-try-die-again loop (okay it’s basically a roguelike). Full honesty, I enjoy neither auto runners, nor roguelikes. When I saw EarthNight’s first trailer, I thought I was in for a classical platforming experience with beautiful aesthetics. But what did I get? Well.

A surprise. I got a hell of a surprise. Cleaversoft’s mission statement is that EarthNight will “change the way you think about auto runners” and… yeah, bingo. I tend to tune out of them whenever I play, and not into a flow state kind of pursuit of perfection, into a general fugue of boredom. EarthNight? Every run has me hooked as the levels progress from simple left to right running affairs to more involved ballets of jumping, slamming, speeding up and slowing down. It’s almost bliss. It’s so close to bliss it’s almost maddening.

EarthNight Platformer Bit
Showing off the platforming elements of the game.

What lets EarthNight’s lovely platforming down is the roguelike bit creeping in. It’s hard! And not just by design. A few hit detection issues crept up on me a lot during my playtime for the review, meaning that I suffered a fair few questionable losses of health, which screwed me over the further you dive down to Earth. You can restore health by jumping down on foes, but when the hit detection is spotty at worst and “fair I guess” at best? It’s not super reliable. That makes it feel a lot rougher on the player than it actually is, which is a shame. I genuinely find myself wanting to surf along with the next dragon, and the limited health makes me feel a bit frustrated. As mechanical mastery sets in, sure, you get a lot further. But. It’s difficult to reach that stage of competence when the levels are randomised, and you can never be fully sure of what’ll happen next.

EarthNight surfing dude
The dragon surfing *does* look pretty damn cool.

A double-edged sword, I suppose. Unpredictable and extremely replayable, yes, but also just faintly irritating. Within the extremely saturated market of roguelikes on the switch, I can’t exactly tell if it’s a standout. From an outside perspective, it seems to check all the boxes. Lots of replayability, satisfying gameplay loops, an economy system to keep you coming back. I do wonder if the level variety increases, as while it is gorgeous, it didn’t feel incredibly varied to play. 

Elements such as weapons you unlock and the occasional boss fight do add a touch of spice to the recipe, but to me, it never quite escapes a pervading sense of “Ughhhh do I really have to do that again?”. And while you can make that trek shorter by straight-up diving past dragon levels, it’s still a sensation of repetition, even if the actual level is technically different every time, they do start to blur together, only the sparkling animation and artwork snapping back the attention.

Ultimately, I guess, EarthNight is fine. Personally speaking, I can’t see myself returning to it beyond this review. That’s a personal preference for you — maybe it’s the roguelike arcade platformer buzzword you’ve been looking for. Somewhere in here is a game of definitely high quality, just one that escapes my personal tastes. 

EarthNight is available now on Nintendo Switch, Steam (Windows and Mac), and iOS.

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