The certainty of death and the loneliness of the universe have never been so colorful and fun. While our tiny, intrepid and faceless spaceman seems fated to die in Lost Orbit, his navigation of asteroids, planets, and galactic barriers makes for a simple and exhilarating lark.
From PixelNauts comes this lovely animated space adventure, a straightforward gaming experience that gains a lot from its simple conceit. Our diminutive hero, cartoonish in nature with a big helmet, small body, and major resilience (he gets right back out there after crashing head-first into a space rock), has so much personality for doing and saying so little. He is the stereotypical determined, anonymous video game hero. We meet him disembarking a spacecraft and suddenly there is he, equipped with a jetpack and that’s all, set to traverse a landscape where he is the only life form.
The set-up has us controlling the character, who orbits the centre of the screen as objects pass him by. While the early controls allow you unlimited thrust, the ability to turn backwards, and the option to leave one side of the screen to enter on the other, you are later allowed to upgrade the experience. In essence, you are flying through each level, which should take around three or four minutes each, collecting crystals (called obtainium) and then going to the next stage.
In turn, said crystals can be submitted for various useful upgrades that aid in your quest to navigate the star system. The barrel roll becomes highly important very quickly, as well as rather dangerous if used incorrectly (more on that later), and various boosts, magnetic fields and other toys are optional, too. The levels naturally get harder as well, with more flying debris and moving objects and just a whole lot of stuff coming at you.
What allows for Lost Orbit to be fun for all ages is that you can decide just how fast, just how reckless and just how thrilling you want to race through each course. You can carefully move in and around the screen, turning back if you need, or just hanging out in suspended animation while waiting for your move (for some reason pressing start instantly kills you, so don’t do that). Now, each level is timed, and the faster you complete them (and the more crystals you get), the better your grade and reward. However, speeding through isn’t ultimately necessary.
It is, however, just a whole of lot fun, because the boost is limitless and as you get more tools, you can race through even quicker. Tiny planets have gravitation fields that allow you to slingshot around them (for a speed boost) and there are also tiny star clusters that suck you in and spit you out in the right direction.
Going as fast as you can, barely missing asteroids and avoiding other obstacles is, in part, exhilarating. That’s because, should you miss, should you err just barely, you’ll die in spectacular and hilarious fashion. Boost into an asteroid and your skeleton comes out the other side. Knick something else and blood splatters on the screen, while a crack appears to make it seem as if the little dude has broken your TV.
There is, however, one point of contention. While there is some fitting pop music to be found, we need, I suppose, some semblance of story. That comes from an unexpected voiceover.
In fact, someone is watching over our little guy (who later gets a name that doesn’t feel suitable), and it’s a gentleman who muses about his thoughts and curiosities. He talks about why someone might want to fly off alone, discussing the finality of death, and even drops a couple more PG-13 phrases for no particular reason. The monologue intervenes while you are playing, more-so in transition levels than anything, but it all seems entirely superfluous and distracting.
It’s not that we shouldn’t have a story; it just doesn’t seem to click with everything else going on. The narrator is, in fact, some sort of rogue spaceman, soon entering the picture and flying around on the screen without interfering. He helps propel a story of hope and salvation, but thankfully not too often.
Still, what remains is an enjoyable romp through space that does an impressive job of making good on its potential. Lost Orbit is an explosion of colour on screen, and because you can essentially control how you want to play and in turn the difficultly, the game satisfies all types of players.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which was provided to us.
In its small, colourful world, Lost Orbit maxes out, delivering a satisfying and fun race through space, gleefully navigating obstacles with reckless abandon.