Orbital Review

Orbital Review

Oct 11, 2011

There are a lot of puzzle games available on the Android platform, but let’s face it – most of them are variations on the same old “match three of a kind” formula. Sure, there are variations on how you go about matching three of a kind, but at the end of the day, a lot of puzzle games have very similar gameplay mechanics. With a handful of exceptions, the puzzle game genre has become somewhat stagnant over the past couple of years, and that makes it extremely exciting when a game like Orbital comes out.

Orbital has the player firing orbs onto the playing field, and then breaking those orbs by firing other orbs at them. Each orb will expand until it hits either another orb, or one of the walls on the playing field. It takes multiple hits to destroy each orb, so it’s really easy to fill up the screen with orbs making it impossible to fire off another shot without having it ricochet off of one of those orbs, and across the death line at the bottom of the screen.

There are three game types that use this interesting gameplay mechanic: Supernova, Gravity, and Pure. All are available for multiplayer as well as singleplayer.

Supernova mode puts you in direct control of the cannon that fires the orbs. You can either put your finger on the cannon itself, or the guideline it displays. Using the cannon will result in faster, twitchier movement while holding down on the guideline will result in slower, more accurate movement. Unfortunately, when I say “more accurate” I mean “more accurate than a map made by a blind drunken cartographer”. The guideline is actually a little thinner than the shot fired from the cannon, so, sometimes when it looks like you’re going to clear an orb, you actually wind up hitting it. To make matters worse, when you take your finger off the screen, your shot fires, often in a slightly different direction than you intended. As you lift your finger off of the screen, the line will jump just prior to firing the shot. In a game where one death ends the game, these inaccuracies are absolutely inexcusable.

Both Gravity and Pure mode are a little better off than Supernova when it comes to accuracy. These modes both have the cannon swaying from side to side, and when you tap it, a shot fires. Believe it or not, it’s far easier to get a shot to go where you want it this way than with actual control over the cannon. It doesn’t hurt that it only takes three shots to destroy each orb in these modes as opposed to the five shots required in Supernova.

While it’s easier to get a shot to go where you want in the Gravity and Pure modes, it’s still not extremely accurate, and again, you only get one life which only serves to highlight the inaccuracies found in aiming a shot.

Alright, now that all of that is out of the way, Orbital isn’t a bad game, it just has some flaws. The core concept is actually really unique and well worth checking out if you’re in to puzzle games. I’d really love to see an update hit this game that improves the controls and allows for greater accuracy when firing a shot, but as it is, it’s worth checking out… just try the demo before spending your hard earned money on it.

Orbital Review Rundown

8
Graphics and Sound - The neon visuals and futuristic sound effects aren't terribly detailed, but they do a great job of conveying the style the developers were going for.
5
Controls - The abysmal controls make the game far less accurate than it needs to be.
9
Gameplay - The core concept behind Orbital is unique, and engaging, despite extremely inaccurate controls.
6
Replay Value - The frustrating controls will probably keep you from coming back to this game, despite the potential for replay value found in the core gameplay.
7
Overall - Orbital is a beautiful game with a big ol' black eye in the form of the controls. Try the demo - if it doesn't frustrate you, then move on to the full version.

App available on the Google Play Store »

Demo version is also available on the Google Play Store »

Michael Kurz
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