iPhone Game Review: Orbital
Orbital is an explosion of awesome neon particle effects and color giving this challenging game a beautiful appearance. The premise is simple - get rid of orbs on the playing field by hitting them with other orbs shot out of a cannon at the bottom of the screen.
Once you are at the game's Main Menu, you are presented with a fairly standard allotment of options except the game represents those choices using easy-to-interpret symbols in place of words on menu buttons.
From the Main Menu, you can choose, from left to right, Single Player, Pass-n-Play Multiplayer, Global High Scores, Settings, and a Help section. The Help section contains a good explanation of how to play Orbital, the two different game modes, and how multiplayer works.
The game includes an interesting feature that really encourages the competitive, "just one more game" factor. Under Settings, select the Online Wizard, and you will be prompted if you wish to go online. Select 'yes' and you are then prompted regarding Facebook. Connecting with Facebook is not required for Orbital's online mode so feel free to say 'no' for this prompt. Finally, you enter a nickname. Online mode is now enabled. You will be able to view global high scores from the Main Menu, but even neater, when a game ends the game will automatically tell you what world rank your highest score has for the all-time leaderboards, the rank your of your best score within the last 24 hours, and how much more you need to score in either table to move up one rank. It really gives you a competitive feel as you see how close or how far you are from getting just one step better.
Orbital has two different game modes. In both modes the actual mechanics of playing are identical; the only thing different is how the ball behaves. With Gravity Mode, each of the orbs exerts its own gravity causing shots to curve around them while in Pure Mode the shots move and reflect off obstacles in straight lines. Gravity Mode is a little bit more forgiving because the gravity of the orbs helps keep your shot from shooting back down to the bottom and across the Death Line which is explained below.
The basics of gameplay are truly simple. There is an automatically rotating canon at the bottom of the screen. When you want it to fire, simply touch the screen and a shot is fired. Its behavior is dictated by the gameplay mode you have chosen. When the shot comes to rest, it immediately expands into a new Orb inscribed with a "3". It will keep exanding until it encounters another obstacle so it is possible to have very small to very large orbs depending on the available open space. Each orb require 3 hits from the cannon to make it disappear and award you a point. Each time an orb is hit the number on it will go down by one to let you know how many hits remain. The one thing that will end the game immediately is the Death Line which is located just above the cannon. If a shot bounces off an obstacle and back down towards the bottom, the game offers you a dramatic slow motion view as it gets close to the Death Line. Cross it and it's game over.
The graphics are one thing that really make Orbital a joy to play. Bright neon colors, particle effects, and board deformations really give you lots of appealing eye candy. The animations are all smooth with no lag. These graphics, to me, are just really fun to look at and just add to the game's presentation.
The game includes as background music a pretty laid back electronic soundtrack which blends in nicely with the overall theme of the game. Orbital really shines with the special effects and includes nice thudding sounds for the orbs, the cannon shots, and explosions. The one area that I had an issue with was the Main Menu music. On my iPhone 3G's external speakers, the music caused crackling on my speakers as if it was producing sound outside the range of the speakers; however, there were zero issues when I used headphones and you could really hear the quality of all the music and sounds.
-simple to play: you can play this game with one hand, just tap to shoot
-addictively challenging: interactive leaderboard combined with simple mechanics makes for a great "just one more time" game
-Facebook integration: if you're into that sort of thing
-2 game modes: Pure and Gravity mode
-pass and play multiplayer
-awesome neon-style graphics with dynamic particle effects and board deformations
-with headphones, very nice background music and sound effects
-some may find the game more frustrating than challenging especially if you are impatient
-sounds effects a little quiet and background music crackled on my external speakers
Overall, Orbital is a totally simple to play game coupled with a challenging concept wrapped in a beautiful neon package. All of that combined with global leaderboards that show you just how close you are to getting to the next rank really make it an addicting experience. Pick this game up and don't be surprised if you find yourself trying over and over to improve your personal best score.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -5- You can't go wrong with neon.
Sound: -4- Sounds great with headphones, but I had an issue with the music externally.
Controls: -5- Tap to shoot; it's that easy.
Gameplay: -4.5- Simple, yet challenging will have you saying, "just once more".
Playing Hints and Tips:
-You need to be patient. Don't just randomly shoot balls into the playing field or you will quickly run out of room. Wait til the cannon is pointed exactly where you want it to be before shooting and don't rush your shots.
-Be careful when trying to bounce shots off orbs near the Death Line. It is very easy in both modes to have it ricochet right back down ending your game.
Developer: bitforge Ltd
Release Date: August 6, 2009
Price: $ 2.99
Buy Game: iTunes App Store
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