Orbital is a challenging and intriguing title that fits well on Windows Phone yet falls short of becoming a puzzle classic in its own right.
A physics based game, Orbital sees you in charge of a cannon placed along the bottom of the screen. Depending upon the mode the cannon will either swing from left to right automatically or can be aimed manually with your finger. Launching a ball will see it bounce around the sides of the level, but if it passes the line back near the cannon, it is game over.
When the ball stops, it changes size, either turning into a small obstacle or ballooning into a massive ball. This happens every time and is unavoidable, so intelligent clearing of the stage is a big part of the game. Each ball will have a number on it demonstrating how many hits it takes to clear.
So, the basic idea is to shoot the bouncing ball around the level, trying to clear the circular obstructions without having your ball bounce back past the start line.
Like I mentioned before, depending on the game mode, the cannon can either be set to automatically move from left to write or be controlled manually. Having it move on its own is far more challenging and makes for a better game, as the game descends into a bit of a Puzzle Bobble farce when you can choose exactly where to send the ball. There is also a great ‘Gravity’ mode where all the balls currently on the screen have their own gravitational field, which effects the flight of the ball profoundly. It is probably the best part of the game, making the other modes seem tame and uninteresting by comparison.
The game is at its most compelling when the screen is full of orbs, and it takes real timing and skill to proceed. It’s a great feeling when you clear several orbs in one shot.
There is a pass and play multiplayer mode, and it does provide a decent distraction and is a welcome inclusion, adding some extra legs to the title. It has to be said that online play could have skyrocketed the score you see below, but it was not included.
The graphics are of the neon variety, and look really good and perform well on WP. There is never any slowdown and they are really impressive when you factor in the gravity effects at play.
Talking about longevity, the main thing here in terms of getting you to come back for more is simply beating your own score, or competing on the online leaderboards. It says a lot for the basic quality of the game that doing that is enough for me to recommend it. It is addictive and fun, but I do feel that despite the three included modes and local multiplayer, a lack of true replayability beyond the leaderboards is a problem. It is an Xbox Live title, so achievements help but at the current price I find it difficult to score it higher, especially as this is essentially a three year old game available for a fraction of the price on other formats.
The meat and bones of what I am saying is that if you play the free demo, unlocking the full game will be a disappointment if you are expecting a shedload of content. A good game, that will provide a few hours of gameplay.