A Delightful Tale of Death and Freedom at The Edge of Space. | Lost Orbit Review
Death is a difficult story to tell. In fact, very difficult. So difficult, not many approach it. Death is a complete final act, filled with the processes of sadness, desperation, tragedy, and closure. Letting go of life with the fearful confidence of what happens in the unknown. To know that a life, having lived, slips the surely bonds of existence into passing. Death comes in many ways. Some are unexpected and others are predicted but come when those are unrepared for it. But, the prospects of death, can bring about couragous stories of life and survival. In death, one experiences true freedom, liberated from the boundries set forth in life. Life may end but that person is free in those final moments. And, finally, in it all, there is a time for humor and fun. Canadian-based PIXELNauts has created such a game.
Lost Orbit is a tale of death and survival but also the joy to be limitless, even in the beautiful danger that is space. Players encounter a humerous tale, where comraderie, thrills, and wonder all contribute the prospects of being oneself, even in the face of deah. Mixed with a wonderful gameplay mechanic, fluid levels, and an amazing soundtrack, Lost Orbit becomes a gem of a game.
To best describe aspects of the story is to compare the tale to the famous Stages of Death skit from Robot Chicken, where a Giraffe voiced by Seth Green encounters the stages of Death, which is quite clever and accurate. Simlarly, Lost Orbit follows in that path. From the perspecive of a robotic companion, the tale is narrated, voiced by Dave Evans. Players witness a lone engineer operating on an array in a distant star system. Suddenly, disaster strikes, with the array and the engineer’s ship being completely destroyed. The engineer clings to the array and decides to venture out into the dangers of space to make his way home.
While the tale is short, clocking in at 5 hours, it is a beautiful tale of hope in the face of demise, with a solid narrative and clever quips of dialogue. Our main character is far away from the luxuries of home and safety, yet according to the narrator, chooses to hold onto happiness and the small splendors of life, bringing a sense of hope and unending optimism for his situation. Our character reminisces fondly on good memories and good times, sticking to them as a means to stay focused. The story reinterprets the meaning of this point in life and becomes more than just a hopeful tale. It makes for a very satifsying conclusion and a very memorable tale.
The game describes itself as a “dodge-em’ up”, an interesting way to describe a game. Typically, as is the norm, games in space involve war, battle, and destroying the enemy. Lost Orbit chooses action in speed and navigation versus lasers and blowing up interstellar fleets. Players must boost through every level, collecting obtanium, and dodging a large variety of fast-paced and unexpected obstacles. How Lost Orbit nails this is in speed, control and a bit of a nostalgic twist to game classics of the past. Players use their boosters, as well as various space phenomena, to make their way through systems are incredibly quick paces. Players are scored based on their time, obtanium collected, and number of deaths. If they hit certain numbers, players recieve medals and bonus obtanium for their efforts. The game, though, is nowhere as easy as it seems. An example of this can be seen below.
As players find themselves on the fringes of space, there are many hazarrds that they will encounter. Rogue Asteroids, Automated laser cannons, and walls of debris provide deadly hazards to our players. There are no health packs or health bars. Touching any of these obstacles, especialy at insanely high-speeds, yields certain death, in brutally humerous fashions. The game introduces players seamlessly to the controls and levels design in the early stages, then proceeds to let players go it alone. The levels introduce jump pads and even encourage the player to go off-screen, left-to-right and vice versa, in order to navigate certain ostacles. This makes for a very engaging and chalenging gameplay experience.
I found myself hooked into the frantic, past paced boosting, and feeling like a skilled explorer, dodging asteroid by inches and blasting through wormholes. It was thrilling to run rings around a planet and boost out of orbit, only to chain boost into nebulae and other planets at such high speeds. Everytime I died, I gave a little chuckle at the absurdity of the deaths. Sometimes, I was obliterated into pieces. Other times, I was a big red spot on the side of a planet, added with a clever quip from the robotic companion. And depending on the impact, my skeleton would be all that remained of the poor engineer. Even restarting levels provided a humorous animation, including a nod to the famous self-destructing wrist computer from Predator.
The controls are simple for PlayStation 4 players. The left stick pilots our enginner, while X turns on thrusters. The R2 button initiates a Mega-boost to blast through areas, and lasts depending on the amount of fuel in the tank. When unlocked, L2 activates full reverse thrust and the square button activates a one-time use bomb that destroys asteroids and turrets. Finally, the L1, R1 buttons engage barrel rolls for quick maneuvering. The speaker on the PS4 controllers makes a chime, confirming when the engineer has acquired obtanium.
The visuals are striking, with very vibrant and distinct colors glowing on the screen. Backgrounds are fluidly animated and deep in depth, with the right tones setting the peace of deep space. There are levels that play more as cut-scenes with players participating in movements, remarking on the story and characters. Each star system has its own distinct look and feel, as well as it’s own specific set of challenges. The characters and level designs are also dstinct. For example, players know which wormhole is to enter and which one exist, in specific stages. Coupled with this is a fantastic score composed by Canadian-based composer Giancarlo Feltrin, who uses a combination of digital tracks, electric pianos, and synthesizers. The main theme, from his SoundCloud, highlights the range in which he explore his music. The tracks found in the end of levels and in the final system in particular, are incredible. When each level ends, it is a festive array of electric tracks while the final system, Sol, features an array of haunting space chorus and synthesizers.
Lost Orbit is among 2015’s best games. While short, it features a great narrative on death, hope, friendship, and being limitless while presenting a wonderful, different kind of gameplays with a great presentation, a fantastic music score, and very vibrant visuals.
The Good: Very engaging game play design, fast-paced mechanics, vibrant interstellar visuals, solid story of humorous death and hope, solid music score.
The Bad: Length, not enough levels, feels like there’s a large world to be discovered.