Orbit Review—Lost in Space
The Internet and iPhone App Store are full of games like Kitten Cannon, Learn to Fly and other titles of similar gameplay, with a lot of them being popular and successful, and some even earning a fan base. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Yeti Sports: Pingu Throw wasn’t that successful, but there hasn’t been any game like it on the PSP since—that is, until now, with Orbit, the latest game by British developer Laughing Jackal, hitting the PSN Store.
The National Space Programme has suffered a few cutbacks in funding due to the credit crunch and in actual fact has no money whatsoever. However, two less-than-gifted scientists have a solution to the problem. How? By collecting chunks of gold that are inexplicably floating around a variety of planets in space, of course. And how are they going to collect the gold? Well, by simply firing themselves out of a cannon and flapping like crazy to collect the gold—obviously.
The game starts off with the scientists explaining the general lack of funds for the space programme and how they (with your help) are going to solve it. However, the game does take a little while to actually take off (excuse the pun), with an awful lot of dialogue to sift through before you do anything, and even though it does set a good base for the story, the constant back-and-forth banter between the scientists really becomes quite boring. Still, there are a few moments of humour between the duo, like when one of them has a theory that everything they are doing is not in their control and, in fact, feels as if someone were doing everything for them.
In your initial attempts to collect the gold, you are launched from a cannon with nothing but your arms and a couple of plastic wings strapped to you to help your fundraising efforts. After a few attempts, you are able to upgrade your flight apparatus to increase your launch distance and the range of your gold collector, and you receive a radar and even wipers to clear any sludge from the screen. I did like the different ships you had when you traveled from planet to planet. My favourite would have to be the giant slingshot that launches a toilet with rockets strapped to it.
As if it weren’t hard enough just trying to collect the gold floating around the various planets’ atmospheres, you also have to avoid floating lumps of trash and even a legion of aliens who are also out to collect that precious ore. However, the aliens do more than slow you down. There are three kinds: the ones who spray green goo over your screen, the ones that drain your boost and, the worst, the ones that steal your precious gold. Other than collecting gold around various planets and upgrading your craft, there are also blueprints scattered around the planets for you to collect, and like a lot of Minis titles now, there are also achievements for you to earn to try and stretch the lifespan of the game.
The controls are basic, with the game only requiring the use of a single button through most of it, from launching yourself to flapping your arms to keep you aloft. I was a little disappointed with the fact that there is no way of controlling your launch trajectory. Which, when added to the fact that every time you launch on the same planet all the obstacles and gold are in exactly the same place, makes the game get very repetitive very fast. I kept finding myself getting increasingly fed up by the fact that every time I hit the perfect launch on Mars, I would ALWAYS hit the same alien ship, which would reduce my thrust.
Don’t expect anything amazing in the graphical department. Sure, the cartoon style does suit the game’s persona, but it just feels as though maybe Laughing Jackal just couldn’t be bothered to really try anything special. That’s not to say the graphics are bad, but they are certainly far from groundbreaking. The sound is pretty much the same as the graphics; sure, the BGM fits with the game, but there really isn’t a decent variety.
Laughing Jackal seem to have played it safe with this one. They haven’t tried anything special or attempted to push the boundaries and have just stuck with something tried and true. The graphics are average and the gameplay fairly basic, with a so-so story line. If you have a few minutes to kill, Orbit can do that for you, but then again, so can a good book, too.