bit Generations: Orbital (Import) review
Minimalist Pleasures


Orbital's a bit of an odd beast. It's part of the bit Generations series released in Japan, all of which pride themselves on simplistic graphics and gameplay concepts. So if you're looking for something that will push the GBA hardware to its limits, you should look elsewhere. But if you're not, read on.

The basic concept of Orbital is very simple. You play a small planet floating around a solar system.You don't have direct control over your planet- you can only alter its path by attracting towards or repelling away from other heavenly bodies. If you get close enough to a larger body, you can put yourself in orbit around it, indicated by a little chiming sound effect. You can use these two methods of getting about to go about your goal- to increase your planet in size enough for you to attract the sun in the solar system.
The solar systems at first seem infinite until you realise they wrap-round, so the levels aren't as terrifyingly massive as you think. But it's still possible to get lost in them. Getting bigger is easy (at least, in the earlier levels). All you have to do is collide with another object the same size or smaller than you. You'll know for sure which ones these are, because objects the same size as you will be a rich blue colour and anything smaller than you will be a pale grey colour. Anything you can't absorb is red.

But you don't have to stop at absorbing planets, you can also make them satellites of your planet. If you pass by close enough to a grey object to catch it in your gravity field, it'll orbit you and become one of your moons. You complete the level by turning the sun (which turns yellow when you reach a certain size) into one of your satellites. At the end of every level, you'll be dealt out extra lives on the basis of how many moons you finished the level with.

That's basically how the game works, and it is strangely addictive. The whole game is immensely satisfying. Getting your planet as big as possible will leave you a lovely warm feeling inside. The music, while unvaried, is tranquil and complements the action entirely. There's over 30 levels, all of which you have to unlock. It's a very relaxing game to play for the most part, except for the parts where it becomes swear-inducingly difficult. It will take time to master the whole game.

The game isn't perfect, however. One of the most irritating flaws is that you have to guess at which body you will be attracted to/repelled from. When you're between a supergiant and a tiny planet the answer is pretty obvious, but when you're between two more equally-sized planets, or worse when you've moved so far all the planets are off-screen, you simply end up hitting and hoping. The level design is frequently frustrating because they're so damn hard- the learning curve is immense at points.

The package it's presented in is also nice- the box is smaller and more stylish than the standard GBA titles. The jet black cartridge is a lot more striking than the average gray GBA cart. And best of all, it's at a budget price. Retailing at 2000 yen, these games are incredibly cheap. The total cost of mine, including shipping to the UK, only went up to £12.37. What would I get for that cost walking down to my local games store? At best, a boxless GBA title or a beaten-up copy of something else. Orbital is spectacular value for money, and an excellent addition to anyones collection.

So overall, the game is exactly what a budget title should be: simple, subtly pleasing, and full of replay value. There's no truly offensive points about it, and it's very hard to put down. Get importing, or cross your fingers for a US/EU release.

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