0rbitalis – As We Play

One of the more amazing things about the modern-day game is the limited amount of interaction you can have with a product, yet still be completely and utterly spellbound by its content.

Angry Birds is a perfect example. Hold your finger down, aim while pulling back, then just let go. That’s it. The in-game physics determine the rest. Same with Cut the Rope, a simple finger-swipe to cut a rope and it’s out of your hands. Two of the world’s most successful games have extremely limited control schemes which is, ironically, part of their appeal.

Orbitalis falls into precisely the same category. Move your mouse around for a little bit while you aim your probe, then click the mouse button and watch it go. That’s all there is to it. The game is as much a cinematic experience as it is an interactive one. Yet Orbitalis still manages to be mesmerizing, compulsive and unexpectedly essential, all at the same time.


Version Tested: 1.00
Format: PC

The aim of the game is to orbit your satellite for the longest amount of time possible across a variety of different celestial situations. Once the satellite is launched, you have no control over what happens next and are going to pulled and pushed around by the gravitational force of other planets. Each level has a set amount of time you’ll need to fulfil in order for you to move onto the next. This is indicated by a large circle which draws itself around the outside of the play-space the longer you stay in orbit and eventually creates a clock-face like shape.

However, you can go way beyond that and this methodology links into the game’s compelling leaderboard system. Unlike other leaderboards, the system here feels quite refreshing as the physics in each level are so different from one another. This means that, effectively, you can be in the Top 5 in the World on one level, then as low down as 100th on the next. Your score is ranked by how long you stay in orbit, but also how complex your orbit is. And as the construction of each celestial situation is so drastically different, there is no ‘one technique beats all’ template to winning at Orbitalis.

That is majorly because the action is so dynamic. You can spend between ten to fifteen tries just trying to beat the necessary time-limit, then randomly accomplish it by the skin of your teeth. But because there are asteroids always moving on the screen and the swirling motion of the black hole at the centre of the screen is always in effect, you will have to steer your red guideline in such a way that you can guide your satellite along a rhythmic loop, while still avoiding all the obstacles cluttering your path.



The red guideline just so happens to be a good ally to have. If you pay close enough attention, you can usually get a feel for your satellite’s fate way before it happens, whether it collides with immovable asteroids or spirals far and wide into the far extremities of space. If you can see it’s going to collide, move it around a bit further and try to pre-empt any unwarranted carnage. If you keep finding yourself failing in the same places, give your strategy a complete overhaul and rethink.

Needless to say, I took several goes to get into the style of play. It’s not as straightforward as it may sound, but once I did I was completely hooked. And frankly, I’ve come to the conclusion that Zucconi is a genius. This has twice the depth of a Super Hexagon but all the frustration and replay-value you’ve come to expect. Rather than just tap a button and go, this is about study. About timing and precision and learning from your mistakes.

What’s more, it’s ready-made for any format out there, has a great look and feel and plays like a dream. The physics must have been a logistical nightmare, yet they are expertly balanced and well-honed.

Only slight issues cropped up during my playthrough. There is some slow-down when moving from menus and occasionally the leaderboard didn’t load once a level was completed, meaning my score was not logged. I also found the game’s map system a bit convoluted and unnecessarily confusing. In fact, if launched from the game menu, I could not access the other available planets. I was stuck on the screen with unresponsive clicking and had to force-quit the game, which was a bit unfortunate.

But my gripes are minor and only to do with issues outside of the gameplay, which appears unaffected, feels well-tested and plays flawlessly.

Orbitalis has plenty of content on offer, with a large range of levels, a very attractive price-point, tons of replay value and an absolutely beautiful musical score. Doseone has truly helped separate this game from everything else on the market and supported this wondrous play-space with his own distinct style.


Areas for Development

  • A less jerky, more responsive and fluid menu system with better transition between screens.
  • Ensure all leaderboards load at the conclusion of each level as we encountered a few instances where this didn’t happen and thus lost our scores.
  • Improve the travel map. At present, it’s cluttered, convoluted and not entirely clear.
  • Sometimes, probes do seem to completely disappear from the screen
  • When loading the travel map from main menu, the game can sometimes crash as mouse clicks are unresponsive. We had to force-quit a few times because of this.

Final Analysis

We’re only into April and believe that the quest to find the best Independent game in 2014 is going to be the toughest race yet. Where many AAA titles have stumbled out of the blocks, the quality of independent releases with little promotion continues to amaze us. Orbitalis is right up there with the likes of Nidhogg, 10 Second Ninja, rymdkapsel and many others we’ve enjoyed over the last four months. The quality is phenomenal.

Orbitalis is so distinct, so clever, engaging and relevant that for the price of a pint, you’d be a fool to miss it. In fact, with only very minor issues holding it back from a perfect competency grade, we genuinely believe that Orbitalis is an absolutely essential purchase that you must own and experience this instant.


Technical Competency – 8/10

Graphic/Sound Quality – 9.5/10

Network Stability – 8.5/10

Overall Quality Grade – 8.5/10

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