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Review: 0rbitalis

Jul 07 // Darren Nakamura
0rbitalis (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Alan ZucconiPublisher: MastertronicMRSP: $9.99Release Date: May 28, 2015 0rbitalis starts off with a simple goal: keep the probe from hitting a star or a planet for a set period of time. Generally, this can be achieved by finding just the right launch conditions to get the missile into a stable orbit. Soon after teaching that basic rule of thumb, it puts out levels in which stability is impossible and the surest course can be one with dangerous fly-bys and slingshot maneuvers, smashing into the surface of a star just moments after the timer runs down. That's just the first set of levels. Each set has only about five levels in it, with a progression that goes from introduction to experimentation to display of mastery quickly. Some levels can take a lot of time to complete as a result of their difficulty, but pacing is fast in terms of the number of conceptual tweaks. Long before a single idea feels played out, the next one is ushered in. [embed]293514:58888:0[/embed] These ideas can sound mundane, like having planets move along fixed paths, or they can sound fantastical, like anti-stars made of antimatter that produce antigravity fields. Either way, they bring something new to puzzle over. Other notable tweaks featured in certain level sets are pulsars whose gravitational pulls are variable over time, multiple star systems, and multiple rockets launching simultaneously from different locations. One major gameplay tweak comes with a total shift in goals. In certain levels there is a demarcated zone and the object is to spend a certain amount of time in the zone. Rather than surviving for as long as possible, the goal is to finish as quickly as possible. Instead of searching for a smooth orbit, the ideal solution often involves a high-power shot meant to break free and end once it has achieved its purpose. Personally, I prefer the more relaxed feel of the "survive as long as possible" levels. Since player interaction ends at the moment of the launch, there is a fair amount of downtime when the player isn't strictly doing anything other than watching the probe and predicting its path. That aspect in itself is almost a zen experience. With a mellow atmospheric music backing and a film grain filter over the simple geometric shapes, it's easy to be lulled into an almost catatonic state. I sat around just watching one orbit for about five minutes and it felt like it was only about thirty seconds. The visual effects work toward this as well. The subtle glow of space debris is calming, but the most striking effect is the trail following the probe. It fades slowly, so a long run over an interesting path creates an image reminiscent of those produced by a Spirograph. 0rbitalis has built-in screenshot functionality (in addition to Steam's), presumably because a good shot can result in some beautiful minimalist art. On the surface, 0rbitalis is a competent puzzle game with a simple central mechanic. It explores many facets with modifications and additions to that mechanic, and each new idea changes up gameplay enough that it never feels like its retreading ground. That's how one could describe 0rbitalis, but that doesn't really convey it. Finding the right groove and reaching a hypnotic state, that's 0rbitalis at its best. Fire a shot, have it smash into an asteroid. Fire another, have it slingshot off into deep space. Fire another, then contemplate the nature of the universe as it bends and loops around for minutes at a time, leaving behind a trail of where it has been.
0rbitalis review photo
Hypn0tizing
A lot of ideas come out of the 48-hour game jam Ludum Dare, but only a small handful of them gain any appreciable notoriety past that. Every now and then a submission will get enough attention that its creators decide to deve...

A Mini Falafel Adventure photo
A Mini Falafel Adventure

Freeware metroidvania A Mini Falafel Adventure playable now


Get that Game Boy aesthetic
Jul 07
// Darren Nakamura
Look, we're all still a little peeved that Nintendo has neglected to make a 2D Metroid game in more than 10 years. However, while Nintendo has consistently jilted its Samus fans, we have been spoiled for choice in terms of o...
Super Impossible Road photo
Super Impossible Road

Super Impossible Road is the Mario Kart 64 Rainbow Road shortcut over and over


Coming to PlayStation 4
Jul 07
// Darren Nakamura
Mario Kart 64. Rainbow Road. Lakitu flashes the green light. The kart gets a boost of speed due to a well-timed acceleration. The track starts to curve down. The driver careens to the left and floats off into space. If done ...

Myriad on PlayStation photo
Myriad on PlayStation

Stark, trippy shooter Myriad also heading to PS4 and Vita


Another baffling press release, too
Jul 07
// Darren Nakamura
Earlier this year I was impressed by several parts of Myriad. The first was its use of bold colors and hard edges. The second was its unique mechanical take on the twin-stick shooter genre. The third was its head-scratchingl...
Renoir Kickstarter photo
Renoir Kickstarter

Noir puzzle platformer Renoir on Kickstarter


Now with gameplay footage
Jul 02
// Darren Nakamura
A few months back we got our first look at Renoir and I expressed some cautious optimism since the film noir genre is underused in games but the reveal trailer had no information on gameplay past the puzzle-platformer genre ...
Card Hunter on Steam photo
Card Hunter on Steam

Browser-based tactical card RPG Card Hunter headed to Steam


New expansion coming soon too
Jul 02
// Darren Nakamura
Somehow I have missed out on Card Hunter for the past couple years. It released in 2013 and Destructoid's reviews patriarch Chris Carter loved it. I don't know how it wasn't on my radar; it has a lot going for it I'm into. I...
Humble Borderlands Bundle photo
Humble Borderlands Bundle

Humble Borderlands Bundle adds more DLC


Claptrap and Headhunter DLC
Jul 01
// Darren Nakamura
Last week, Humble and Gearbox announced the Humble Borderlands Bundle, featuring Borderlands, Borderlands 2, a coupon for 75 percent off Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and a big chunk of downloadable content for the first two g...
Video games on Fallon photo
Video games on Fallon

The Tonight Show's (lack of) video game coverage has been disappointing


Show some Fallout, Fallon
Jun 30
// Darren Nakamura
I have been a fan of Jimmy Fallon for a long time now. I used to have to qualify that statement with something like, "I know it's not cool, but..." These days it's a lot more acceptable to enjoy his playful take on late night...
Team Fortress Spla2n photo
Team Fortress Spla2n

Splatoon's Turf War now modded into Team Fortress 2


Team Fortress Spla2n
Jun 30
// Darren Nakamura
You're a squid now, you're a Demoman now. It might be missing the same ring to it, but that's what's going on in this Team Fortress 2 mod. Two teams of four face off to paint the environment and splat one another. Admittedly...
Uncle Jack photo
Uncle Jack

Let We Happy Few's Uncle Jack tuck you into bed tonight


Definitely not creepy
Jun 26
// Darren Nakamura
It's getting late. Have you applied the minty paste to the exposed part of your skeleton? If so, let good old Uncle Jack read you a bedtime story. It will be fun! You won't have nightmares. Probably. One of the neat things a...
Ink photo
Ink

Ink is like Super Meat Boy if Meat Boy's blood were a rainbow


And if the environment were invisible
Jun 26
// Darren Nakamura
Today is a good day to celebrate rainbows, eh? I mean, every day is a good day to celebrate rainbows, and even if that weren't the case, I'd still highlight Super 91 Studios' Ink. It started as an entry to Ludum Dare 32, who...
Dad Beat Dads photo
Dad Beat Dads

Belated Father's Day: Throw babies in Dad Beat Dads


My dad could beat up your dad
Jun 26
// Darren Nakamura
True story: my dad used to be quite the brawler. At a stocky 5'5" (165 cm), he was often underestimated. What he lacks in height and reach he makes up for in tenacity. What I'm trying to say is that I'm pretty sure my dad co...
Battleborn demo video photo
Battleborn demo video

Watch 23 minutes of Battleborn footage from E3


Dibs on Miko
Jun 26
// Darren Nakamura
Jordan got some hands-on time with Battleborn at E3, and while his write up does a good job of laying down the basics, sometimes it's helpful to see a video in order to really get how a game plays. Now us poor, decrepit non-...
Borderlands screenshots photo
Borderlands screenshots

Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride screenshots, we got 'em


Catch a screeeeeeeeeen!
Jun 23
// Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride is out today, and it continues the excellence the series has been known for thus far. As I normally do while playing through Telltale titles, I had my finger firmly planted on the F12 ...
Humble Borderlands Bundle photo
Humble Borderlands Bundle

Borderlands headlines the current Humble Bundle


A good entry point for newbies
Jun 23
// Darren Nakamura
Today is just a Borderlands day, it would seem. Not only did the third episode of the stellar Tales from the Borderlands release today, but now we have word that the mainline loot-shooters will be doing the whole Humble Bund...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride

Jun 23 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: June 23, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] When we last saw Fiona and Rhys, the duo had just constructed the Gortys Project while Vaughn and Sasha were being held hostage. Atlas Mugged ended with a significant Telltale choice for Rhys to make: trust Fiona in her ability to improvise the situation or trust the shadow of Handsome Jack residing in his own cybernetic head. Though the decision was given a lot of weight, the episode concluded before we got to see much of an effect. As it turns out, the opening sequence to Catch a Ride plays out quite differently depending on which option was selected earlier. It's enough of a difference that along with the review code, Telltale sent a message imploring me to play through the episode twice in order to see just how far-reaching the consequences are. The differences are there, and they persist until about the third act, but at that point the two branches sort of homogenize together. Without giving away too much, trusting Handsome Jack unlocks the help of three characters who aren't necessarily available to those who instead trusted Fiona. However, by the end, all three are out of the picture one way or another, despite that they could have been particularly useful. [embed]294552:59205:0[/embed] It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who has played a Telltale game in the past few years that the overall narrative threads all begin and end in the same place, but Catch a Ride does feel like an improvement in that regard, if only slightly. Though the player cannot really affect how the story ends, certain scenes play out differently enough to warrant another look. One silly change I appreciated was that Rhys's Echo Eye ability is corrupted if he lets Jack into his systems. Instead of the dry humor found in the default descriptions, Jack inserts his own brand of over-the-top musings. I do wish this idea were taken further; there is a section in which Rhys has to hack a computer and having a digitized version of Handsome Jack ought to have helped in that situation. Fiona also goes through some questionable design territory with her abilities. Where her sleeve gun was previously limited, providing the possibility for interesting choices, its power is unlocked in the episode. It nullifies the opportunity cost that piqued my interest in Atlas Mugged; when I spent that incendiary bullet singing Finch's hair off in the second episode, I thought that would be the last time. Now it almost feels like Telltale is trying to set Fiona up to be a proper Vault Hunter in Borderlands 3. While on the one hand it will definitely be cool to see Telltale's original characters in Gearbox's next effort in the main series, it would detract from her uniqueness as a smooth-talking con artist were she to become another gunslinging badass. Speaking of characters, we do get a few new cameos from the main series here, although their inclusion feels a bit like fan service. After playing through twice, I'm still not quite sure why they were there, but it could very well be something that is planned to be explained in the future. As it stands, they show up, say some funny lines, do some outrageously violent things, and advance the story in a way, but their motivation isn't clear. That is a relatively minor complaint, especially considering the best thing Catch a Ride has going for it is one of the new characters. Gortys turns out to be a friendly robot and she easily has some of the best lines in the episode. With the personality of an earnest young child, she feels so out of place in the dark wastelands of Pandora that I couldn't help but be charmed. Everybody on the planet is gruff, insane, murderous, jaded, or at least sarcastic that having one character who is none of those is just perfect. Some of Gortys's lines tap lightly on the fourth wall; those are worth a lasting grin. There is one scene of hers in particular that had me laughing heartily, both times I played through. Even knowing it was coming, the setup and delivery were so on point that it killed. Ashley Johnson's voice work was perfect for the role. I don't know how this story ends, but I hope Gortys survives the ordeal in one way or another, because Borderlands needs to keep that character around. It may seem like a lot of my thoughts on Catch a Ride are negative, but they are minor quibbles in the grand scheme. Though I'm a little disappointed the two protagonists aren't using their unique skills as much as they did in the first episode, the story they team up to tell is still completely engrossing. The writing is as sharp as ever, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The end of the episode has just the right amount of cliffhanger to it. Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride feels like a complete chapter in the story, but now I have a rough idea for what to expect in the next two episodes. With that narrative skeleton in mind, I am looking forward to watching the rest of the series play out now more than ever. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 17, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit
Telltale Borderlands photo
Worth the fare
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Ever s...

Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Meet Gortys in this Tales from the Borderlands: Catch a Ride trailer


She's adorable
Jun 23
// Darren Nakamura
The third episode for Tales from the Borderlands is out today on PC and PlayStation consoles (with the rest out this week) so Telltale sent along this shiny new trailer for it. In it, we see some cameos from Vault Hunters Br...
Starcraft II photo
The first hit is free
Blizzard took the penultimate spot in the PC gaming show at E3 tonight. Executive Producer Chris Sigaty and Game Director Dustin Browder started off talking about Heroes of the Storm, but eventually got to some juicy informa...

Take On Mars photo
Take On Mars

Take On Mars gets a new trailer, beta this summer


Another A-Ha subheader probably
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
I've been interested in Take On Mars for a while, but I'm always a little wary of doing the Early Access thing. On the one hand, there's exploring real-life locations on the red planet. On the other, there's playing an unfin...
Dirty Bomb photo
Dirty Bomb

Meet the Dirty Bomb team and maybe nab a Fragger


100,000 keys over at PC Gamer
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
I'm hearing more and more about Dirty Bomb lately, almost to the point where I might download the free-to-play shooter to check it out. The chances just went up a bit, because PC Gamer has its hands on 100,000 keys for one o...
AMD Dual Fiji GPU photo
AMD Dual Fiji GPU

AMD introduces dual Fiji GPU card


All the fancy water you could want
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
The PC gaming show at E3 2015 is the first of its kind, and it came about in large part due to AMD's financial support. So early on there was what amounted to a drawn-out advertisement for AMD products. Later on, AMD CEO Lisa...
Yooka-Laylee photo
Yooka-Laylee

Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter ends with over $3.25 million


More like Moola-Baybee
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
It was a long journey, but it has come to an end. A month and a half ago, the Banjo-Kazooie-esque 3D platformer showed up on Kickstarter, and it crushed its initial goal of £175,000 on day one, hitting over &p...
Planet Coaster photo
Planet Coaster

Elite: Dangerous developer creating theme park simulator 'Planet Coaster'


This isn't set in space...
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
In a strong departure from the space battles of Elite: Dangerous, Frontier announced a theme park simulator tonight at the PC gaming show at E3. The Planet Coaster: Simulation Evolved trailer started with an empty grass lot,...
American Truck Simulator photo
American Truck Simulator

American Truck Simulator used Google Maps


Real roads, fake trucks
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
I've always been fascinated by Euro Truck Simulator, but never jumped in because, pff, who wants to drive in Europe? This is America; we drive on American roads here and we speak American. As it turns out, American Truck Simu...
Fable Legends photo
Fable Legends

Fable Legends has 'years of content' planned


Not a one-and-done
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
At the PC gaming show this evening, Xbox's Phil Spencer came out and introduced a few developers working on PC and Xbox One. One game in the presentation was Fable Legends, which I liked the last time I played it. In addition...
Tony Hawk 5 photo
Tony Hawk 5

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 releasing on September 29


On PS4 and Xbox One
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
Amidst all of the press conferences and announcements and previews, Tony Hawk decided now would be a good time to tweet out some information about the upcoming Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. It looks like the return to form for th...
Rising Storm: Vietnam photo
Rising Storm: Vietnam

Rising Storm 2: Vietnam goes to the most popular war


Hmmm
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
At the PC gaming stream tonight, Tripwire Interactive and Antimatter Games revealed a new shooter. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is going to have to walk a fine line; it's going to have to take a different tack than a lot of milit...
Lara Croft GO photo
Lara Croft GO

Lara Croft GO headed to mobile and tablet 'soon'


'Set in a long-forgotten world'
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
Square Enix has some experience putting out mobile games with big name IPs. Hitman GO released last year and by most accounts it was a solid title. Now it looks like it's our favorite tomb raider's turn with Lara Croft GO. Co...
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X releasing on December 4


'It's [almost] time to suit up'
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
Nintendo has been pushing Xenoblade Chronicles X pretty hard with Japanese live streams earlier this year. Now it's getting close to time for Western audiences to start getting hyped. The short trailer shown during Nint...
Star Wars Battlefront photo
Star Wars Battlefront

EA debuts survival mode in Star Wars Battlefront


Beautiful '70s explosions
Jun 15
// Darren Nakamura
We saw a bit of Star Wars Battlefront's competitive multiplayer earlier today, but at Sony's press conference tonight, Patrick Bach of DICE showed off its cooperative survival mode. A small team of rebels fight off the Imper...

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