Orbitalis

Game review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
Orbitalis Game Poster Image
Challenging retro space puzzler tests skills, patience.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Though puzzle game has no text or characters, calls into mind patience, perseverance when working toward solutions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No characters present in game, so no role models found.

Ease of Play

Heavy focus on trial and error, limited instructions means literally trying everything you can think of to solve puzzle. Gameplay may frustrate unskilled puzzle players.

Violence

Satellites break into pieces if they collide with other celestial bodies.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Orbitalis is a downloadable puzzle game that's designed to test your mental faculties. There's nothing objectionable in this satellite-launching game, nor is there a plot; this lack of initial information, coupled with some truly complex and difficult levels, may frustrate some players who aren't willing to engage in the trial-and-error-style nature of the gameplay.

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What's it about?

ORBITALIS is a unique puzzle game that doesn't have a particular plot: Players are challenged to launch a satellite from one celestial body and hope the trajectory they've created allows that object to successfully orbit other objects floating in space for a minimum amount of time. This isn't always the easiest thing, because there can be floating triangular meteors, other planetary bodies, or random other objects in space, all exerting varying amounts of gravity on the satellite to potentially crash into their surfaces. Others repel incoming objects, sometimes forcing a recalculation of launch angles and timing for success. You may even be asked to destroy some devices, challenging your aim. Level completion times are automatically posted to a global leaderboard, allowing players to gauge their success with that of other gamers. Orbitalis also comes with level editors so players can create and share their own mind-bending levels, as well as daily challenges to keep the action constantly updated.

Is it any good?

Orbitalis manages to succeed across its hundred-plus level arrangement by literally embodying the "simple to learn, hard to master" concept. Players aren't provided with hints or a tutorial off the bat; instead, the game looks to you to jump into each stage (named after star systems) and test your skills against each gravity puzzle. But as you scratch the surface of the game, you see the brilliant depth hidden in its minimalist presentation. Sure, you can simply accomplish each goal and complete a level, but the time element gives players an additional challenge: Best your time and raise your name on the global leaderboard. You may even be surprised at scanning across the included star map to find little hidden levels off the main path, just waiting for you to explore. In many ways, this gives you a chance to tailor the challenge to your skill level.

But don't be fooled. There's still plenty of challenge to be found in this game, especially when you're on a stage with a dozen or more objects between you and your goal and gravity bouncing your satellite around like a bottle on a stormy sea. The difficulty is a tad inconsistent, with some stages being extremely hard and the next few being a bit too easy. Fortunately, given the many stages, the addition of the daily challenge, and the option to construct your own levels, Orbitalis has more than enough gameplay to please any puzzle fan.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about difficult brainteasers and puzzles. Do you like to be challenged in games that are designed to be fun as well? Is there a point where you give up because the challenge is too hard?

  • Discuss the difficulties of space and launches. With so many recent space failures and successes in the news, do you think space travel will become as routine as our daily commute? How do you think we'll simplify the launch of satellites, ships, or other vessels into space or other celestial bodies?

  • Talk about gravity. Do you think we'll ever understand everything about gravity, given humanity's advances in science, or will that mystery never truly be solved?

Game details

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For kids who love puzzles

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