Like its protagonist, Lost Orbit runs on something; the difference is that instead of jet fuel, the self-proclaimed dodge-'em-up is powered by risk and reward. Quickly zooming past two asteroids set to collide, using a planet's rings to catapult from one place to the next, and flying through gas giants for an extra boost of speed are just a few examples to help paint a metaphorical picture of what developer PixelNAUTS has crafted: a hectic experience that's exclusively for adrenaline junkies.
Death is imminent. Harrison, the lowly space engineer whom you control, is equipped with nothing but a jet pack. He can slow down and move in any direction, but is almost always travelling at breakneck speeds while keeping his eyes straight ahead. Take a standard vertical shmup, throw in a lot more obstacles to avoid, and cut out all of the shooting – that's Lost Orbit. The control scheme is easy to learn (you'll only be using four buttons) and the goal is straightforward. It all sounds fairly simple, doesn't it?
Although a challenge is there for those who want it, navigating through the title's 42 stages is a self-inflicted, optional kind of pain. As we said before, Harrison can slow down and move in any direction at any given time, meaning that it's entirely possible to slowly float through each level as you carefully work past the debris coming your way – it just isn't very rewarding. Aside from those coveted leaderboard scores, quickly getting through a level will earn you obtanium, the game's currency of choice. You can use your acquired loot to buy upgrades on Harrison's boost ability, defences, and other utilities.
Distancing itself from the rather brief selection of other dodge-'em-ups, the game takes a cue from the likes of Bastion and Transistor by having its own narrator. Attlee, a friendly drone who joins you on your trek through space, commentates over, well, just about everything. While we wouldn't dare compare his dialogue to that found in either of the previously mentioned titles, he's still a nice distraction that adds some depth to an otherwise mindless, bloody adventure.
Each time you go crashing into a wall, a meteor, or some other obstruction, Harrison will explode like a little beanbag filled with red Kool-Aid. It's a glorious sight that adds a bit of humour to the situation, but the developer does take things a bit too far on occasion. There are a number of 'jokes' that Attlee will spout out if you should come to an unfortunate end, and while we admire dark humour that's done correctly, these jokes just aren't very funny. He's barely audible, to boot.
Its story of unlikely friendship isn't up to par with The Fox and the Hound, just as its attempt at black humour never hits Harold and Maude, but Lost Orbit knows how to give one hell of an adrenaline rush. Speed runners, risk takers, and thrill seekers will all be sorely disappointed to miss out here – but everyone else can pass.
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