Release Date: April 16, 2014
Developer: Alan Zucconi
0RBITALIS is the brainchild of indie developer Alan Zucconi, and revolves around deceptively simple fundamentals: after firing a satellite, you must keep it in orbit for as long as possible without it leaving the system or crashing into a star. A red line predicts your trajectory. You control the power and direction. You have one shot.
The controls are quite literally limited to click-to-shoot, then watch and pray while a miniscule red triangle attempts to traverse the solar system. This monotony, however, belies the increasingly complex nature of the game. Progression through levels introduces more stars to hit, different objectives to achieve, and showcases an impressive wealth of ingenuity on behalf of Zucconi. There is no story to speak of, but the journey is so creatively diverse that the gameplay feels like an adventure in itself. Imagine sending 5 satellites into space to dodge asteroids and the gargantuan inferno that is the sun with nothing more than a click and your best wishes. Not the most promising of objectives.
The resonating soundtrack is so fittingly mellow that it’s hard to believe it was composed by rapper Doseone. Doseone’s score combined with elegant graphics and gentle, uncomplicated colours transforms the playing experience into one of an almost therapeutic – which is necessary for when you send your precious satellite blazing to a fiery end, again.
That’s not to say the game is hard – most of the levels are relatively straightforward, albeit with numerous possible solutions – and just enough require real patience to try and complete, so that players crucially escape the frustration that usually comes hand in hand with these types of games.
Instead, to play feels largely rewarding, as 0RBITALIS tugs at your creativity and mechanical skill to avoid sending tiny astronauts to an excruciating early death. Although your function is capped at choosing when and where to click, there are always options. You’re only limited by how crazily optimistic you choose to be.
Despite its strengths, it is still easy to spot that this title falls into the ‘indie’ category, however. The physics-based puzzles, whilst offering a plethora of interesting possibilities, are unlikely to appeal to those who have no interest in the genre. This is probably down to the linear style of the game – there is no story to speak of, and little in the way of pulsing action – and it’s definitely not Portal. At a release price as low as £2.79, though, it’s certainly worth grabbing a copy of through Steam Early Access or Get Games – despite the arcade nature of the game making it feel like it might be more at home taking the App Store by storm.
Even when you’re stuck on a particularly stubborn puzzle, faced with repeated failure, it’s impossible to avoid just how damn pretty the game is. You don’t need an in-depth knowledge of astrophysics to enjoy this one. 0RBITALIS is definitely closer to a four-star rating than a two, and is an excellent little title to indulge and immerse yourself in.