December 16, 2011 18 Comments
Orbitron: Revolution received a brief Second Chance with the Chick. Click here to read it. Consider this to be the definitive review.
Damn. This is one pretty game. To say Orbitron: Revolution has the most polished 3D graphics of any Xbox Live Indie Game is an understatement. It actually demolishes my argument that even the best looking XBLIG would still pale in comparison to 90% of the games on the market. It really looks like an Xbox Live Arcade Game. As a gamer who has always told people to focus on gameplay and not aesthetics, it’s sure made a hypocrite out of me.
But enough about the graphics. Even if they are beautiful and shiny, like getting your eyeballs gently massaged by the loving touch of a Heaven-sent angel on a mission to NO! Gameplay! Focus, Kairi!
Funny enough, Orbitron: Revolution is pretty much just Defender. You know, that antiquated space shooter from 1980. The one they tried to remake in 2002 and failed miserably at. Orbitron isn’t really about defending anything, but it’s still got that Defender vibe to it. As a ship, you scroll left or right, shooting at various enemies. When you kill one wave, another spawns. This continues until three minutes have expired, at which point the game is over and your score is uploaded to the online leaderboards.
So is it fun? Yes. Yes it is. It’s also got a potential for addiction that would impress your average drug dealer. I told myself I would just play a couple of rounds to get a feel for it, then move on. A couple of rounds became dozens, and soon I was obsessed with landing a spot on the top 20 of the leaderboard. The closest I came was 21st. Yea, shameful for sure. But I do have an excuse: the game is far from perfect.
The tragic irony is that those beautiful graphics are likely the biggest problem. Often times, I just couldn’t see the damn enemies because of Orbitron’s over-reliance on bloom effects. I would have to rely on the radar that’s under the play field, but it’s not exactly situated for lining up your shot correctly. Other times, the enemies seemed to blend in a little too well with the background. So although I was left gobsmacked by the graphics, I feel that a static black background would have made the game more playable. It also would have allowed the game to come in under 50MB and thus cost the $1 that the amount of gameplay present justifies. Really, 240MSP for what is pretty much a three-minute-long minigame is borderline extortion.
Yea, there’s a couple other modes. Ring Defense or whatever the hell it’s called, the second mode, is still the same as the first one. The only difference is you can get the time extended by blowing up various targets before the entire station blows up. If you can stay alive for five minutes in it, you get a third mode. I never actually unlocked it, because I found the Ring mode to be boring compared to the very intense timed mode.
The overuse of bright lights notwithstanding, there are a few other issues that kept pissing me off about Orbitron. Randomness seemed to factor in a lot more than any skills I acquired. If I got a “good spawn” from the enemies, I was bound to rake up points from the larger combos. But the combo system seemed a bit clunky as well. Sometimes it seemed like it only took a millisecond for the combo to expire and reset, while other times the cushion seemed more forgiving. Perhaps it was just my perception, but it didn’t always seem consistent. And finally, there are moments where you clear out an entire wave, only to see that there is one missile left that you didn’t tag. It’s faster than your ship and on the other side of the fucking map. Yea, it’s probably my fault for not blowing it up when I had the chance, but it chaffed my ass and I figured I should bring it up.
Despite all my complaints and my feeling that it’s slightly overpriced, Orbitron: Revolution is a really good video game. It does for Defender what Pac-Man Championship Edition did for Pac-Man. It takes a cherished yet somewhat passé game and makes it relevant in our modern gaming culture. And it does it with style and elegance. I almost wonder if the guys at Firebase could have shopped this around and got it the official Defender license. It also makes me wonder what other games they could revitalize. Perhaps Robotron: 2084 will be next on the agenda. I’m pretty sure there haven’t been any Twin Stick Shooters on XBLIG.
240 Microsoft Points took my love, took my land, took me where I could not stand, but I don’t care, I’m still free, you can’t take the sky from me in the making of this review.
Thank you everyone for your well wishes while I recover from my recent setbacks. Hopefully regular reviews are returned now.