Video Game Rentals Delivered

Art Style: Orbient (WiiWare)

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-28 22:05:17

Art Style: Orbient (WiiWare) - Rank B

Developer: skip Ltd.
Publisher: Nintendo
Date: 9/29/08

Of the three "Art Style" games released for the downloadable WiiWare service, Orbient is easily the standout. (Art Style: Cubello is a passable 3-D match-the-blocks game, and Art Style: Rotohex is a tired match-the-colored-tiles rehash.) Using only two buttons and a simple but mind taxing physics model, Orbient presents a clever and complex challenge.

The goal is straightforward. The means are not. Starting as a small planetoid, the objective is to grow larger in size until you have enough mass to capture a target planet as a satellite. The rub is that you have no direct control over your planet, only over gravitational forces that pull or push on it. The only options you have are pushing the A button or the B trigger. Pushing A causes gravity to pull on you, attracting you toward other heavenly bodies - larger and closer ones will pull harder on you. Johannes Kepler would get a kick out of this. Pressing B reverses these forces, and objects will repel you.

The end result is deviously intense. Drifting through the abyss, nudging your planetoid toward target planets while avoiding collisions with life-stealing larger bodies is nerve wracking. Careful maneuvering allows you to slide into stable orbit around larger planets, which can then be used to slingshot yourself in new directions. It's important to understand that these gravitational forces are limited, and too weak for any sudden course corrections. Due to improper planning, I often found myself staring helplessly like the captain of the Titanic, as I slowly but inexorably drifted toward my inescapable doom. The simple mechanics combine to meld into a sort of strategy-puzzle hybrid, and it is completely engrossing.

Orbient is an elegant, inspired game. Considering it's such a basic title, the $6 price point seems about reasonable. It also takes up a tiny portion of storage space, which may be of importance to many Wii owners. Some gamers might bore of it before giving it a proper chance, but anyone willing to embrace its simple clarity will find themselves fascinated. There isn't much to Orbient - it feels as if it could have been a free brower based game - but it's nonetheless enthralling in short sessions.

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