Only having been released in the past few days (12 May 2015), Lost Orbit is sparklingly new and shiny, and comes from Canadian developers PixelNAUTS. The game requires you to take on Harrison, a lowly maintenance worker who becomes stranded in space after his spacecraft is destroyed – he was ‘lucky’ enough to have been spacewalking outside of the craft when it exploded, which I guess is a good thing. The bad news, however, is that he has to journey through four unique solar systems with only his ickle spacesuit’s thrusters. Hmm, strap in, Harrison, your journey home may take a while, and you may, em, die a lot on the way... Best to make the best of a bad situation, then, eh?
To be fair, at the outset there doesn’t look to be a lot going on for Harrison in this game, and he/you should expect to be smeared on nearby rocks (a lot). Each level has the same objective: get to the other side without being crushed, dismembered, smashed to smithereens or any other general form of dying from one of many environmental hazards. As such, this is more of a dodge ‘em up than a shoot ‘em up. And if you want to get through each level, you had better get good at dodging obstacles, at breakneck speed, as quickly as you can.
At the outset, Harrison only has basic tools at his disposal – he can thrust forward or he can turn. Great. If you manage to collect the intriguingly titled Obtainium, however, you can help him to upgrade his suit with new, exciting abilities like the barrel roll, mega boost or the ability to brake. Bless him, I already feel for this little guy, and I would recommend, purely on the basis of my vivid imagination alone, to make your first priority trying to get Harrison an ability to brake. We can’t have him shooting off into space like a human pinball, pinging off planets and asteroids with no hope of safe return, can we? Can we? You sickos, where’s your self respect?
Assuming that we do actually want Harrison to return home safely then, this sounds like a game with a remarkably simple premise and an easy to grasp requirement for a desirable outcome. And yet, it appears to come with an unfailing ability to frustrate as it is harder and more complicated to achieve than first appears. You and Harrison will both require tenacity and courage, there’s no doubt about it.
To be honest, it all sounds good so far: fun, fast, and with sufficient challenge to keep the interest levels high. And this is all before I mention Attlee (first name not, I don’t think, Clement) – the lowly little robot who decides to help Harrison out. Well, I suppose someone had to. In a nice touch, the robot introduces himself to Harrison as ‘null’, but Harrison decides that’s no good to go on a gravestone, and so decides to call him Attlee. There is thus a light-hearted thread throughout this game, as Attlee assumes the role of the narrator. Harrison is too busy dodging death to comment much.
The visuals are good, and depict the varying solar systems, with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, very well indeed. The music and audio effects also do well in adding to the feeling of speed and urgency; when Harrison dies (which he will), the music slows down, only getting back up to speed when you restart the level. It’s also worth noting that the game is single player only. There is also the added incentive of rankings – on completion of each course players will be rewarded with a rank dependent on factors such as the number of deaths and time of completion; platinum is the highest prize available.
A game which has the ability to frustrate and amuse in equal measure is surely worth a shot – go on, Harrison needs you.