Orbitron: Revolution

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.

Graphics whores might want to have a box of tissues nearby when they play Orbitron. Things, ahem, might get sticky.

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.

Orbitron: Revolution was developed by Firebase Industries

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.

Reminder: I’m giving away two copies of Escape Goat on Monday and two copies of Cute Things Dying Violently on Wednesday. 

Thank you everyone for your well wishes while I recover from my recent setbacks.  Hopefully regular reviews are returned now.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

21 Responses to Orbitron: Revolution

  1. My biggest grievance with Orbitron is the inability to back up. It’s only a minor niggle, but if an enemy gets close to you, having to turn round, fly away, then turn back to face your enemy is irritating.

    Oh, proofreading: I think ‘ascetics’ should be ‘aesthetics’.

  2. Adman says:

    Can you comment on the pacing of the game? Does it feel like there is rising and falling actions? Or is it just kind of pedal-to-the-metal the whole way?

    In spite of the pretty shiny graphics, the space shooters look so “blah” to me…

    • Kairi Vice says:

      Pacing? The whole game lasts three minutes. You shoot one wave of guys, more guys appear, you shoot them, even more guys appear.

      • Kairi Vice says:

        It’s a game about high scores and nothing else. It’s extremely fast-paced. I figured my comments about Pac-Man Championship Edition summed up what to expect with this. It’s Defender done just like Pac-Man CE

  3. Ludotex says:

    Like you said the game would have been great, if the pretty graphics were not hiding the gameplay elements. I really wanted to play it being a fan of Defender, but I could not see the ships. Art direction getting over design is a mistake in my book (unless you want to have a pretty game before a fun to play game). Not much is needed to make it more readable though. A highlight around ships like a radar overlay of sort would work. Or darker background (hide it with a black semi transparent curtain). Anyway great game, a bit blinded by its pretty graphics though.

    • Hmm, I don’t have any problem making out the ships. Maybe I just have superhuman vision.

      • Mike says:

        I did at first, especially when they went over the white object (light) in the background, but after a few rounds I figured out what I was looking for and what to look out for. I really enjoy the game. Being someone that shoved quarter after quarter into arcade machines I don’t find $3 too high a price to pay, especially when the production values appear to be top notch.

  4. Thanks for the kind review!

    There is an update to the game that we are working on that will make the visuals clearer. There are a few things at play that hinder some of the readability of the game. The Scout enemy currently blends into the background, and has been recoloured. The sunlight around Sector A is very bright and has been ramped down. The BlindFire ship in the trial is blue which often blends too much into the ambient areas. The new trial will use the Red WildFire ship instead which pops out more. Peer Review dependent, expect these changes, and much more, in less than two weeks.

    Something very important, not just for this game but any shooter. If you have a 120hz TV, make sure it is set to Game Mode. The processing lag in any other mode is terrible for games like Orbitron: Revolution, Geometry Wars 2, or anything else requiring precision motion.

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  10. Dangus says:

    I was excited to buy this after seeing the shout-out in the qrth phyl review but it looks like Orbitron is now back to 240 ms points 😦

    • Yea, I guess I forgot to change that. For what it’s worth, I reviewed the game at 240MSP and I feel it’s kinda worth it at that. Maybe follow those guys on Twitter and wait for the game to drop in price again, I dunno.

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