0RBITALIS is a physics based puzzle game that feels a lot like being in ground control in Kerbal Space Program, with a little bit of Osmos and Portal thrown in for good measure. Another great game published by Mastertronic, made by Alan Zucconi with music by rapper Doseone, the review starts in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… LAUNCH!
I like games that are easy to learn and hard to master. You can have quick fun and kill some time or you can challenge yourself to become the best. This game accomplishes that and more.
You control a probe, but I’m being very generous when I say that you control it. You point and launch it and then cross your fingers while it silently toils around the screen fighting the most terrible and invincible, not to mention invisible, force in all of the universe: gravity.
The gravity of the situation.
Before shooting the probe you will see a dotted line that represents the immediate trajectory. You can use that to aim the probe and calculate the best possible path so it won’t crash. Stars and other big objects like planets are in your way, and their gravity wells will pull the probe to them of course and you will learn to use their gravity to sling your probe past them and make it stay in one piece for longer.
As you play you will find stars with planets in orbit and those planets have their own satellites in orbit as well! You’ll find comets, wormholes, antigravity stars, and things will get more and more complicated as you make progress- for example you can find yourself having to launch several probes at the same time, or faced with several objects behaving erratically in a pattern that’s hard to tell.
Orbits remain visible, so overtime you’ll see beautiful shapes made by your successes. It is oddly relaxing to watch the complicated twists and turns a good launch makes, but it’s hard on your system: it will lag a lot if you do that. You can press the next level key of course, but I think it’s very bad that a game is so poorly optimized that you can’t watch it for more than two minutes without it stopping dead in its tracks. Worse yet, there is an achievement for making a stable orbit of one hour and since it doesn’t use the system clock to time you a real hour won’t count as an in-game hour or at least that was the case for me.
While I understand that a fast-forward button would ruin the suspense of trying to make a launch work, the game should calculate how long your orbit would last- for ever or for two minutes- and then award you your achievements so you don’t have to sit there doing nothing for over an hour.
An atmospheric game in the vacuum of space.
The visuals of the game are very nice, simplistic and minimalistic as it is the game manages to be beautiful. The patterns that emerge as you play or that are already an integral part of the current level are mesmerizing and the music helps a lot. Who would know that a rapper could create something like it? The score is hauntingly beautiful and has an ethereal feel to it, it reminds me heavily of Osmos. If you spend a few more bucks you can download the soundtrack and an artbook of the game.
There are a hundred levels and daily challenges for you here, and the game is not over when you beat it because it supports user made levels thanks to the included level creator.
Mission is go!
For a price tag of $10, 0RBITALIS is a no brainer. There is huge replay value, the soundtrack and visuals are very nice and the puzzles are challenging. Add the level creator and you’re set to become a NASA engineer in no time!