July 3, 2015
0rbitalis is simply not fun. I've given it the time, and even lucked into the top 10 on some leaderboards. I can point to achievements showing under 10% of players complete the first 5 levels, and I can point to the leaderboards and achievements that expect you to leave the game AFK for hours, and that would be the review. Look for the original version on Newgrounds if you want to try it first.
However, I feel it is important to really explain what the problems are, and what the game does for players. 0rbitalis is a simple game about launching a shape around gravity wells. The store makes it sound like a puzzle game, as if you can control time and your ship. Nope, it's really as simple as finding an angular velocity, deciding when to click, and waiting for your shape to float around for a minimum time. You can't alter course after firing, you have no active abilities, you have no interaction. Gravity calculations shift every moment, so firing at the same target point can have different results if you are a millisecond off. The game ends up as a search for the sweet spot so your satellite survives long enough to proceed. Failure is irritating, and success means staring at the screen 10-25 seconds minimum until you can get to the next level.
The developer seems to be a nice person, and responds regularly on the forums. Still, it's like developers know that idling-based tasks aren't fun, yet still use them. Getting an hour orbit wasn't really satisfying, mostly as it felt like sheer luck, and the orbit could've randomly collapsed at any moment. The leaderboards are somehow even worse. Most levels rate the longest times highest, but climbing the leaderboards is just a combination of luck and leaving the game idle. Alt-tab will pause the game, and there is no fast-forward button or timer option, so yes, you'll be waiting on this game for a few hours. However, a few leaderboards seem to rank lowest-times at the top, often led by the developer with impossible times.
Beyond the leaderboards, there is no real depth. Levels drag on and quickly feel repetitive, but there are even more Challenge levels if you can't get enough waiting around. Challenge levels are simple to find on the map, but often require returning to the Star map between each level. If somehow you want even more, you can drag and drop some objects to make some basic levels for the Workshop. There IS a lot of content here, but it feels more like fetch quests than fun.
Unfortunately, most of the issues are by design. The developer can't suddenly make the game more strategic, thoughtful, or interactive. Other design choices seem flawed, such as the heavy graphic settings slowing the game. Graphical settings are changed by toggling between 4 details with the Q key. Despite simple graphics, all the extra particles and blur effects slow the game down, even on minimum. Gravity calculations vary with framerate, and different computers will calculate differently according to the developer. Maybe the physics calculations could be improved and sped up if all the extra graphical details could be disabled. I'd rather have fast-forward than pointless rotating lines and frame drops.
I can understand some of the positive reviews, as the developer seems nice and the game worked in Early Access. It still feels incomplete and shallow. It could almost be redeemed as an educational tool on physics, but the barebones objectives and inconsistent physics will teach nothing. As just entertainment, the frustrating gameplay prevents anything from shining. I got the game from a Humble bundle with intent to play it. I cannot really recommend the game, even on sale. Most of my gameplay has been waiting around and wishing for luck. I wish I could enjoy it.