By: Ted Chow
Lost Orbit is one of those indie titles that brings back the nostalgia of going to an arcade with quarters in my hands, anxiously waiting for an open machine. It is always nice to see a reinvigoration of the arcade scroller genre from time to time amongst the genre saturation.
While it is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of story or setting, and it wouldn’t necessarily be categorized as bullet hell, there is a level of charm in the solidarity of a lone space mechanic as he traverses through the stars to get home. If you love the experience of traveling through space and seeing gorgeous backdrops, then Lost Orbit will provide hours of fun.
In terms of controls, Lost Orbit is a pretty minimalistic game. The character movement through space feels fluid for both the keyboard and controller, and you can sense the momentum of your character as he jetpacks around the screen. Support and function for both peripherals are also well received and inputs are responsive to the touch.
Although the game suggests the use of a controller, the overall experience doesn’t seem to have been cut in any way, unless you value the vibration feature of the controller as you crash into asteroids.
As you travel from one stage to another, Lost Orbit offers an eerie transcendence and vibrant experience. The Borderlands palette of colors really does wonders to give off a sense of whimsy in your interaction with the game, but it’s still captivating enough in setting a solid mood.
Gorgeous backdrops and epic techno music really sell the isolation, vibe and mystery of the Lost Orbit universe, and they offer a good reason to slow down and enjoy the artistic canvas that is being portrayed. With various galaxies to traverse, each with tasteful and elegant designs, I was thoroughly impressed by the attention of detail — enough to purposefully score bronze ratings in order to take in the scenery.
You will play as Harrison, an underpaid, underappreciated space mechanic that got the short end of the stick and is entrusted with fixing a communication relay in the middle of nowhere. Your spaceship is destroyed and you are left stranded and hungry in the cold recesses of space. Thankfully you still have your trusty jetpack, which allows you to set off for home through various galactic stages from asteroid fields amidst a dying star to abundant space jungles.
Your journey’s narrative will be told through the voice of Null, a sentient AI explorer bot that becomes your travelling companion across the multi-verse. It is a bond that will slowly develop during your campaign run, and it is nice to hear the interactions and banter between the two.
Much of the gameplay will have you controlling Harrison through stages in which you must reach the hyper-dimensional gate while avoiding environmental obstacles such as asteroids. Special planets will offer some interesting speed effects as you enter planetary rings, gas giants and water planets to name a few.
While attempting to clear stages you can also collect obtainium, which are space crystals used in powering up and unlocking some of your abilities. Beyond that, you are given a score for your performance during the run based on speed, how much obtainium you collected and number of deaths. Scoring a better score will give bonus obtainium, but if you fell short of a perfect run, the option is there to retry.
Abilities can be acquired through spending obtainium and are used to help Harrison in some precarious situations. Thruster breaks can slow you down faster in order to avoid asteroids, while quick side thrusters can help navigate tight corridors. Utility-based abilities are also available in the form of either increasing your movement speed or allowing you to pick up obtainium with magnetic range. The ability tree is rather limited in scope, but they do enough to spice up what would otherwise be a dull experience.
Time trials are a separate mode that allow for speed runs and leaderboard placements against other players. Stages are identical to those in the campaign, except for the fact that they must be unlocked in the campaign before becoming assessable. Achievements are also available for completionists or for players looking for some extra challenges to extend the game’s length.
Lost Orbit offers a short but touching experience between a man and his robot. It’s definitely worth a playthrough if you’re looking for a new game to take some hours out of your day.