Art Style: Orbient is the first new game (i.e. not a repackaging of one previously published) that I’ve purchased via download. (For the princely sum of six dollars.) And it’s a delightful little game, and one that makes me happy about the increasing variety of mechanisms by which games can be disseminated.
It’s a very simple game: the control scheme uses just two buttons (and in particular no direct directional control: no joystick, no D-pad). You play as an asteroid (by which I mean a circle) meandering through space; one of the buttons increases gravity, drawing you closer to nearby bodies (other circles), while the other turns on antigravity, pushing you away. If you get close to a larger body, you can get drawn into orbit; that, combined with gravity and antigravity, is your movement mechanism. You can absorb other bodies of your size or smaller; eventually, one of the bodies starts to glow, and you clear the level by drawing it into orbit.
Which is a pleasant concept; I’ve never seen a control scheme like that, and I was curious to explore it. And it’s presented in a simple but charming way; in particular, you can also attract smaller bodies (and eventually a moon) into orbit around you, which the game reacts to by adding more layers of music. There are, I believe 50 levels; I went through just over 30 of them, and more than felt I got my money’s worth.
It’s not a revolution in gaming or anything. But it’s got a nice idea, a pleasant presentation, a good amount of content, all at an impulse purchase price. And I think it’s great that the industry is finding ways to potentially make it economical to develop and sell games like this: I like the big budget extravaganzas as much as the next person, but there should be room for a lot more in the medium than just that. My only quibble is that I wish that it had been a DS game; no downloadable content on that platform yet (at least in the U.S.), but Nintendo is in the process of rectifying that flaw.
This post has not been revised since publication.