Standalone WiiWare Review: Orbient

If Cubello and Rotohex are for the mathematicians then Orbient is for the physicists (one wonders if the next Art Style game will be for chemists or biologists).

This is the most sedate of the three Art Style games released and features the simplest controls. Unlike Rotohex, which has the pressure of pieces filling your playfield, or Cubello, in which the titular object drifts inexorably closer to the viewer with each passing moment of inactivity, Orbient has no pressure in terms of time: you can sit and watch the game forever. There is no clock ticking or assault to fend off. Indeed the only onscreen hud-like feature is a series of white dots in the upper right which indicate how many collisions your “star” can sustain. The controls are the most basic seen on the Wii outside of the “Circle” game in MaBoShi: A and B buttons. No other buttons are used, no pointer and no gestures. And yet behind the serenty and simple controls is a surprising amount of depth and an excellent, engrossing game.

The playfield is black, spanning multiple screens and you control a small grey “star” which drifts through this void. You control your star using two kinds of weak gravity: the A button causes gravitational attraction between your star and others of various sizes and the B button causes gravitational repulsion between same. Using this combination of attract and repel you influence your trajectory. All other stars have stable orbits indicated by rings around them. Red stars are larger than yours and may be orbited by yours; grey stars are smaller than yours and may be absorbed via collision or may orbit your star (the number of smaller stars you collect will add bonus points to your score). You will also see blue stars which are of similar size: colliding with these will cause your star to grow and increase the available number of stars you can capture in your gravitational field. When you achieve a target size the “goal star” will begin to flash a silvery yellow. Get this star into your orbit to end the stage.

Whilst initially quite simple with only a few objects, later levels introduce objects which aren’t stars and don’t respond to gravity, but, like red stars, will reduce the metre in the upper right of the screen by one if collided with. When you have no more white dots in the corner the game is over. In addition to these new hazards massive red stars will appear; often more than one with complex, interlocking orbits and tons of smaller orbiting stars.

With multiple levels composed of several stages each there’s a lot of game here. For only 600 points and taking up a minimal amount of blocks it’s the kind of game WiiWare was made for and shows that 3rd parties have to up their efforts to match Nintendo.