Couch multiplayer has been making somewhat of a comeback in recent years, making it the done thing to have friends back to yours for some multiplayer video gaming. 4bit Games, a small independent team from Norway have launched themselves into this arena with their inaugural release, Orbit.
Orbit pitches up to four players into multiplayer space combat that is one part asteroids, one part lander and one part Sunburn. Players must balance their limited power which controls their thrusters, special power and weapons, all while negating the effects of the many stars, planets and comets that make up the arena.
Orbit comprises of three game types, Tournament, Mayhem and Foundry. The main mode available is Tournament, playable over one to four rounds, each of which is randomly selected from a list of game types and battled out on a randomly generated system of planets. Mayhem is identical to Tournament, but contains mini games between each of the rounds, and Foundry allows you to select specific game modes for your tournaments.
For each of the game modes, players must first pick their special ability; Warp which transports you forward a short distance, Shield which protects you from enemy fire for a limited period and Ballista which fires a high power missile at your enemies.
Once in the arena, each “sun” at the centre of the circular map, and each satellite or planet in its orbit, have varying degrees of gravity that will affect you and your projectile’s firing arcs. Some gravitational forces will slow you and your missiles, some will speed them up, whereas some will deflect them entirely. Learning to utilise these different forces at play is key to winning each round.
Game modes include your standard deathmatch called Destroy, where you must be first to get to 10 kills, Conquer where you must capture areas around the sun and its satellites by setting yourself into a geostationary orbit for an extended period of time, Annihilate which limits you to six lives which will be depleted by any means including collisions with the environment, and survive which pits you against your friends, the environment and a whole shower of asteroids, as if navigating the zone unscathed wasn’t difficult enough.
Should you opt for more than one round, you will also be able to upgrade your ship after each, allowing you to give your ship more speed, reduce the gravitational effects on your ship, or even make you invulnerable to your own missiles.
Orbit has a very simple, streamlined style, with much of the ships and planets made up of simple wireframe models and basic sprites which are very in tune with its retro influences, but with a thumping dub step soundtrack that keeps the pace of the twin stick combat pumping.
Playing with three or four players is undoubtedly the way this is meant to be played, with hectic gameplay balancing your power levels against the gravity of the environment, and the requirement to dodge multiple missiles as they follow their gravity influenced trajectories around the map, Orbit is local multiplayer at a highly polished and refined level.
Sadly, the greatest drawback in my mind is its primary design. With local competitive modes only, if you do not have a willing group of nearby friends to play with, this is sadly a bad purchase as there is no online matchmaking, nor the ability to have AI sub in for real players. Furthermore the fact that each of the game types are just derivatives of the same style, makes it somewhat lacking.
If you happen to have a close-knit group of friends that frequently, or occasionally meet for gaming nights, this game will easily slot in as a go to game to finish the evening on a high with its frenetic, fun and intelligent gameplay. Sadly, this is not for everyone and you will find yourself with a deficit in your pocket and your hard drive if the aforementioned is not the case.
Thanks to Xbox and 4bit Games for supporting TiX
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