0rbitalis Review


Indie developer Alan Zucconi’s latest brainchild, 0rbitalis, plays on simplism and human stubbornness to instil a burning desire in the player to show the universe and its fangled physics who’s boss. The universe wins a lot, though – just so you know.

Game: 0rbitalis
Developer: Alan Zucconi
Publisher: Mastertronic
Reviewed on: PC (Steam review code provided)

The idea is to launch your probe and maintain an orbit for as long as possible before the powers that be flings you out into the abyss or into another object that’s emitting its gravitational pull. Early on it might be just a single star to navigate, but later you’ll be plotting courses between several floating space objects that all have varying levels of pull and trajectory. Last a certain amount of time and you’ll unlock the next level, or have the option to go back and challenge times on leaderboards – it’s a straightforward affair in that respect. There’s a hundred of those levels across different sectors that offer slight twists as well as an in-game level editor but the core gameplay is pretty consistent throughout everything.

Beneath the surface it’s a game of complex mathematics that knows exactly what will happen long before it does – they’re called the laws of physics for a reason, I guess. However, for the player it’s more a game of wonder, charm and a leap into the unknown. Sure, educated guesses fuel what can be deemed as puzzle elements, but for the most part once you’ve set the probe away you’re very much at 0rbitalis’ mercy as the probe slingshots back and forth. It reminded me a bit of Angry Birds in the sense that you can push it in the right direction, but what goes down when the scenery is hit is anyone’s guess – 0rbitalis works on a similar premise.

For me the real pull of the game (pun intended) is its beautifully simple aesthetic and sound design – it’s completely on point. Whilst there is a slight retrospective feel, that description alone doesn’t fully do justice to the level of visual polish and care that makes up 0rbitalis’ minimalistic design. The atmospheric soundtrack also succeeds with its simplicity; raining synth and jittering echoes really help engross you in the experience without detracting from it and I happily spent a fair amount of time repeatedly adjusting courses to try and clear a level without ever feeling fatigued by the presentation.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of genuine control. The early missions are far easier to predict but later on it’s a horrendously difficult task to imagine what might happen when you release your probe. Making slight tweaks here and there does make a difference but releasing it half a second earlier than your previous attempt will yield wildly different results – so there is an element of just pushing it away and praying for a good outcome, especially when there’s so many deciding factors floating around on screen at the same time.

There’s variations on mechanics later in the game, too. Planets that push instead of pull and multiple probe launches are two examples that help mix things up for longevity. The inclusion of it all in the level editor that allows creations to be shared with the Steam community is also a nice addition that keeps things interesting. It’s not a game you’ll sit and play for hours at a time, but it certainly shares some qualities of mobile titles that make it easy for you to return at a moments notice without having to be too invested.


So whilst this may not be the game for perfectionists who pride themselves on trial and error knowledge building, it doesn’t by any means become completely unenjoyable because of it. 0rbitalis works on those fundamentals that makes sticking a coin in an arcade coin pusher machine so intriguing and rewarding. There’s definitely an elegant simplicity at work here that a lot of smaller titles fail to capture, and the fact that it allows you to do it all in such a pleasurable environment is a fantastic bonus.


Began gaming on a hand-me-down Commodore Vic-20 back in the mid 80's and hasn't managed to shake the addiction yet. Genres of choice include anything that contains bullets and/or bouncy balls. Has been known to dabble in Destiny content.


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