I went into playing ORBIT with an expectation that I would come out of the fires of gameplay with a lot to say about it. Even with surprisingly short games I have often found a lot to say about just one level when it comes to discussing them but with ORBIT that really isn’t going to be the case I am afraid. On paper when I saw Orbit it sounded perfect for me, a twin stick top down space faring shooter where you and an opponent exchange blows around several planets whilst using gravity as either a blessing or a hindrance to the game’s outcome.
When I turned Orbit on I realized exactly how bare bones this full package really is. The main menu is as bare as I have ever seen with a tutorial, a mode called tournament which is just random matches against an opponent. Then there is mayhem mode which is almost the same as tournament but has random powers given to your ships, in which to cause more destruction in matches. Then lastly there is forge mode which allows you to choose the mode you play and the modifier your ship receives, that is basically it. Although forge mode does also allow you to select what type of map you play on, all this really means is that you can reduce or increase certain elements. For example you can increase the amount of planets in the map thus making the gravitational pull of them more of an issue in matches played.
ORBIT: Xbox One [Reviewed] PC
Developer: 4bit Games
Publisher: 4bit Games
Release Date: 30 September 2015
Price: $6.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Developer/Publisher]
The gameplay is something I do quite enjoy, you and your opponent can choose what ships they use and what power they want in tournament mode, things are more mixed up in Mayhem. Ships are steered using an analog stick but this isn’t really an issue, the real thing that affects gameplay is your very limited power. You use it to move, shoot and even to use your special ability, now the biggest obstacle in game is that if you run out of power and get caught in gravity fields which are too strong, this will basically result in death unless you can guide your way out. It’s a nice easy to learn how to master approach, when it comes to the power situation.
Matches in the game are mixed up into several modes you can play. These modes are Destroy (kill the bad guys) Annihilate (die less than the bad guys) Conquer (Take more territory than the bad guys) and finally survive mode (I am not describing this). A majority of the time though the aim of the game is to either kill your opponent more than they can kill you or simply outlast them and allow their stupidity and bad luck to get them killed, which results in your impending victory. The game really does make you try to earn your kills when using your weapon, since shooting in a straight line at the opposing ship rarely results in a kill, since your missiles are completely at the mercy of how strong the gravity in the area is.
There are a few special abilities that can help you get kills with this although the only truly useful ones I found was one that basically fires a bouncing missile, which caused great hilarity as it killed me each time. One that fires homing missiles at the enemy, they home in when they feel like it. And one that allows you to warp around the map but with the added twist that you cut a line across space killing anything you cut across. The rest of the abilities felt rather useless most of the time.
There were often times when I played against my friend and I found that being skilled or planning out your time of attack didn’t really end up in me or him winning a match. Often it came down to blind luck rather than knowing what you were doing. Of Course knowing what to do certainly helps but unlike most games it doesn’t give you much of an advantage so it’s safe to say this game is quite fair on people who are newcomers until they learn what they are doing five minutes later that is. Yes the learning curve is probably the smallest I have seen recently. But I don’t think making a game simple is a bad thing, a lot of the most basic games have been great to play.
The biggest problem this game seems to have (aside from limited modes and random gameplay) is that ORBIT is entirely couch versus. Now I am not saying that it has single player with couch versus as an add on like older games used to have. This game is entirely a two player minimum deal, you must have a friend with you and another controller. I was rather surprised that the game did not try to appeal to those who would gladly play it alone against AI bots. Or those who are like myself that would gladly play against randoms online, since the game really does look like it would benefit from having online multiplayer, alongside its couch multiplayer. It feels like the game could have easily benefitted if it did have these things it is a shame that they are not included in the overall package.
While it is unfortunate that the game does not have single player or online components I must say that the local multiplayer is still very good to play as long as you have a friend on standby who enjoys this kind of game. Sadly I never had the chance to play the game with three or four players I think it is safe to say that it would have become quite chaotic to play since two players alone was pretty hectic as it was.
In summary I like to think that Orbit is not a bad game, it has rather unique gameplay, it values local multiplayer and the soundtrack is very retro in style, which I always welcome. The visuals themselves have a nice touch too, while they are basic they are by no means bad to look at. The real issues that ORBIT has is what it lacks in its current state. It would greatly benefit from a single player mode, online versus and maybe even some co-op modes rather than having it just a versus affair. I hope to see more games from this genre and developer in the future.