Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a first-person shooter that follows the same events as those of the soon-to-be released animated Disney movie, and it casts you as Milo Thatch, a young adventurer who's involved in a turn-of-the-century expedition to find the sunken city of Atlantis. The game starts off aboard your expedition's submarine, the Ulysses, and then moves on to other key areas from the film, including the underwater caverns, the bowels of a volcano, and the ruins of Atlantis itself. In total, Atlantis has 22 single-player levels--none of which will take you any longer than five minutes to complete. While the unusually small levels keep the pacing of the game fairly brisk, you'll also find that it takes about two hours of casual playing time to finish the entire game. Unfortunately, the game has little to keep you interested once you've finished it the first time.
It doesn't take long to complete Atlantis, nor to get frustrated with it. The game seems to assume that you've already seen the movie (which is strange, considering the game was released prior to the film), since a myriad of characters--both good and evil--will talk to your character over his radio without any prior introduction. During a particularly confusing sequence in the game, five different characters will radio in to you, some of which merely chatter on nonsensically, within a span of a single minute. There's also nothing to preface the situations that unfold in the game--the cutscenes in between each mission do nothing more than pan around the level you're about to enter--and as a result, the game's plot quickly becomes confusing. For example, during the first half of Atlantis, you're constantly radioed hints by one of your expedition partners, but halfway through the game, you supposedly meet an Atlantean girl, who then becomes your primary radio contact. However, the game makes no attempt to inform you of that meeting--in one level, she's nonexistent, and in the next, she's your new partner. In light of all this, you'll quickly learn to ignore all radio messages and complete each of the level's overly simply objectives on your own.
Despite the plot's confusing nature, Atlantis plays like a straightforward, uninspired first-person shooter. You're given the option of customizing your controls, even though there's little need to do anything other than shoot, move, and jump. The game has eight weapons, or more accurately, "tools" that you'll find throughout the single-player campaign, although you'll rarely use anything other than your primary tool, which is a slow-firing beam weapon of sorts. The first-person perspective doesn't show the item you have equipped, so the only way to tell what you're actually using is through Atlantis' clunky interface, which is nothing more than a toolbar located at the bottom of the screen. Most of the real estate on the toolbar is taken up by two rows of 10 colored lights. The top row represents your health, and the bottom is your ammo--but neither gives an accurately quantifiable indication of your reserves.
Atlantis has other problems. Its graphics look dated, and while some of the levels use vibrant colors, for the most part all the environments are dull and muted. This is unfortunate, considering the game uses the robust LithTech 3D graphics engine, which was recently featured in the impressive shooter No One Lives Forever. Unlike in that game, the levels and characters in Atlantis are rendered using very few polygons, and the textures throughout are small and plain. It's a shooter, but there's no real violence in Atlantis--enemies you shoot simply seem to teleport away. Atlantis almost manages to capture the stylized look and feel of an animated cartoon world--similar to that of a game like Rayman 2--but in the end, it falls short.
The game does offer a number of multiplayer modes, including "capture the crystal," but you'll be hard-pressed to find any players on the scarce active servers that are actually online. For what it's worth, browsing these servers is certainly easy, thanks to the game's inclusion of the GameSpy program. Another redeeming aspect of Atlantis is the inclusion of vehicles that you can control. There are only two levels where this is possible, but these sequences do break up the otherwise monotonous gameplay of the rest of Atlantis.
While the fact that Disney Interactive has created a first-person shooter might seem surprising, the fact that it's not very good may not be. Atlantis has most of the conventions found in a typical shooter--strafing, mouse-look, a variety of weapons, and several multiplayer options--but its lack of a coherent plot, depth of play, or even overall quality prevent it from being worthwhile.