It’s a run-and-gun roguelite with arcade sensibilities and cool 360-degree multi-floor levels that you can zip through
Imagine this: a fast-shooting action-platformer with wrap-around 360-degree levels like Resogun.
Actually, wait, you don’t need to! That game exists, and it’s called Orbital Bullet. After recently catching it in the Popular Upcoming list on Steam, I jumped in and realized two hours had flown by. The Steam Early Access version launched today, and while there’s room to freshen up the UI, the core roguelite shooter premise already feels fantastic — and I love the funky almost-but-not-quite-PS1 aesthetic.
I know roguelite burnout is a very real concern, but this one’s pretty special.
Orbital Bullet has a cool 2D-sprites-in-3D-worlds vibe that reminds me of PS1 platformers (in a good way).
First and foremost, the nuts and bolts of Orbital Bullet — the running, jumping, rolling, and shooting — feel satisfying. It’s the kind of game where you don’t necessarily need to go as fast as possible (though there are benefits to doing so), but you still end up rushing anyway just because it’s inherently fun to.
Aside from getting the fundamentals right, as well as offering a bunch of different weapon types that can be found or purchased from a merchant during runs, the main draw here is the level design. It’s used to great effect. Much like Resogun, these stages loop around. But instead of blasting waves of invading ships in a single score-chasing arena, in Orbital Bullet, you’re run-and-gunning your way across interconnected floors. With longer-range weaponry, especially the hard-hitting sniper, you can nail enemies that are essentially “off-screen” with your curved shots, assuming no obstacles are blocking the way. One of the energy guns has this sweet full-screen piercing blast. There’s even a flak cannon!
Some enemies can hit you from far away with various projectile attacks, so you’ve got to keep an eye on your distant surroundings. Others have armor that needs to be jumped on before you can inflict damage, and some foes will try to charge you head-on with a shield protecting their front. In latter biomes (there are three right now in Early Access), you’ll face off against more capable soldiers and warp-striking creatures that are more reflex-intensive. That said, most of the attack patterns are easy to spot and learn. It’s more a matter of not letting too many threats get tangled up together in one chaotic force.
Once rifts are unlocked, you’ll start to see them pop up during runs. They have a chest — but you’ll need to fight.
One other wrinkle to the 360-degree platforming: on any given floor in Orbital Bullet, there can be an inner and outer ring (with enemies on both), and you’ll jump between layers using booster pads.
Once you clear out all the creeps on the current floor (and double-check that you searched for easy-to-miss perk items), you’ll tap a certain button on your controller (or key on your keyboard), and your chunky-pixel trooper will soar up to the next stage. Rinse and repeat until you reach the biome boss.
It’s hard to put into words how great this “floor clear” transition animation is; no matter where you are, no matter what’s in your way, when you’re ready to move on, you can just tap the button and instantly move forward. It’s the secret sauce that keeps the pacing tight — a crucial ingredient for a roguelite.
There are pit stops along the way — including optional challenge rifts that have a nice Doom vibe and give out higher-tier guns or loads of “permanent unlock” currency — but that’s the gist of the flow.
The merchant is a real weirdo compared to everything else in the game. I’m intrigued.
Even as the action ramps up, it never gets too complicated, which I appreciated. You can carry two guns, and as you level up with kills, you’ll get skill points to spend on a semi-randomized skill tree. My advice? Get the boots that fire a laser when you double-jump. And a drone! Who doesn’t love drones?
In terms of longer-term motivation, there are a few types of unlocks: guns (which you’ll discover with blueprints and unlock with enemy-dropped weapon parts), global upgrades (typical roguelite stuff like more healing, shields, and being able to vault unspent currencies), and class skills. There are four classes — I’ve been sticking with the turret-tossing Engineer so far — and you can unlock more perks/abilities for the classes by completing missions, most of which revolve around taking out bosses.
I can consistently get to the third biome, but I always seem to bite the bullet on that area’s boss, which leaps around the screen like a maniac. Most of my runs last around 12 to 15 minutes. So, pretty breezy.
There’s a real pick-up-and-play factor here that I’ve honestly been missing lately.
Seeing your shots clear the entire 360-degree playing field never gets old.
If I have complaints, they mostly come down to polishing the UI and UX — just little touches. I’ve been spoiled by games like Hades, Dead Cells, and Rogue Legacy 2 when it comes to how intuitively and smoothly some of the familiar roguelite trappings can be presented to players. Just as one example, the whole post-run process of spending your currency on unlocks is fine for now, but it lacks impact.
This is an Early Access release, with plans for “at least one year” of further development. With that said, as someone who can be picky about playing unfinished games and souring myself on them before they’re done, I think this is a fairly safe bet. Orbital Bullet could use more content — that’s just how it goes with roguelites — but there’s a satisfying loop here already, and the price is fair. It deserves a nod.
[These impressions are based on a Steam Early Access build of the game provided by the publisher.]