Posted on 11 Sep 2017 by Kyle Johnson

PAX West: EarthNight

The Defence

Developer: Cleaversoft
Publisher: Cleaversoft
Genre: Arcade, Indie
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: No data.

Far in the future, hand-painted dragons have swarmed the skies above Earth, forming an all-but-impenetrable barrier. Much of humanity has left for the stars, but for Stanley and Sydney, their quest lies below, and with a lot of dead dragons along the way.

This is Cleaversoft’s EarthNight, a game I demoed at the Indie Minibooth at PAX West this year. Boasting beautiful hand-painted art, an active aesthetic, and borrowing a bit from the Bit.Trip Runner series, EarthNight is far more than the endless runner it initially seems. I had a chance to talk with the brains behind the music of EarthNight at PAX West, Paul “Chipocrite” Weinstein.

At its core, EarthNight is closer to a boss fighter than an infinite runner. The stages are broken up into dragons, you run along their backs, stringing together minion kills and collecting all sorts of trophies before running up to the head of the dragon, and stabbing its eye over and over. Naturally, EarthNight makes even getting to the head a difficult proposition. I only managed to down a couple of dragons, and those kills only occurred in the easier first world at that.

There are ways to make it easier, however. Each character plays quite differently, with Stanley picking up a sword to bat away the smaller critters, and Sydney adopting a more acrobatic jumping style. As I discovered and Paul pointed out, the point is not to simply run along the backs of the dragons, but rather, spend time sailing through the air, surfing off of platforms and powering yourself up along the way.

When that happens, EarthNight truly shines. EarthNight is a visual treat to behold, with soft splashes of color playing against the outlines of the collectibles and other enemies you’ll encounter. The artist was recruited by Rich Siegel, founder and owner of Cleaverosft, after he saw some of their work online. From what I saw at PAX, this turned out to be an excellent pickup. Not only that, but while the show floor made it hard to make out the music, Paul’s chiptune soundtrack accents the simple, yet difficult gameplay that EarthNight presents.

Between runs, Stanley and Sydney lounge in their small spaceship, while the collectibles you’ve found bounce around the walls behind them. Paul said that while the team doesn’t have anything like upgrades planned for the moment, you will unlock new items to find and equip by killing more and more difficult dragons. These items include the aforementioned sword for Stanley, double-jump boots, plus equivalents for Sydney. More items had yet to be unlocked at the show, but it looked as though there were at least 20 items to reveal yet.

EarthNight has also taken quite the journey to get to where it is today, too. After initially showing at an indie game expo, Cleaversoft caught the eye of Sony, and asked the team if they’d like to publish with Sony. Naturally, Rich and the rest of the team agreed, and even though it’s been three years since then, Paul said that Sony has been nothing but supportive during the development process.

EarthNight still has some development left to go before the full release, as only three stages were playable out of five at the show. Regardless, Cleaversoft is still aiming for a release sometime soon. It will be a timed exclusive for the PS4 and Vita, but there are plans to bring EarthNight to PC before long.

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