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iPhone App Reviews: Orbital an Astonishing Physics Puzzler

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Orbital, an outstanding physics puzzler from bitforge, is available in the app store. Combining neon light graphics with Snood-like gameplay, Orbital is a visually-appealing and highly-addictive exercise in precision and perseverance. While we previously took a look at Orbital pre-launch, we decided to revisit the game is it grows in popularity.

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Orbital is set in a space-like atmosphere, on a dark field with a grid overlay. At the base of this field is a perpetually oscillating cannon. Above this cannon is a line extending the width of the field. This line is the death line. The first rule of Orbital is you do not cross the death line. The second rule of Orbital is you do not cross….. well, you get the idea (sorry, couldn’t resist the Fight Club rip-off). Seriously, if you cross the death line, the game is over. Gameplay is almost too simple. Tapping your finger on the screen will launch an orbital, in the direction that the cannon is facing, into the field of play. This orbital travels at a constant rate which cannot be altered. The orbital will ricochet off of walls and objects. When it comes to rest, it will expand until it touches another object, either a wall or another previously-fired orbital. When it stops expanding, the number 3 will appear inside, as it will with each and every fired orbital. Each time an orbital at rest is touched by another orbital, its number is reduced by one. When an orbital with a 1 is touched, it will disappear in a beautiful, neon-pixel explosion. Every exploded orbital earns 1 point. Play continues until one of your orbitals crosses the aforementioned death line. If the orbital approaching the death line looks like it may or may not cross, the game will slow down and pull in tight on the boundary line, increasing the tension in dramatic fashion.

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There are two modes of gameplay, and they only differ slightly. In Pure mode, orbitals travel in straight lines, much like billiard balls would. In Gravity mode, the previously-fired orbitals create gravitational fields which alter the path of newly-fired orbitals, bending their trajectories in different ways. A quick look at the OpenFeint high score tables indicates that Gravity mode tends to generate higher scores, by a significant margin. Orbital also offers a two-player pass-and-play mode, allowing you to challenge a friend sitting next to you. You can also challenge friends via Facebook Connect.

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Despite its simple presentation, much care was obviously put into the look of the game. Graphically, Orbital has a nice, futuristic-type look, with sweet neon-pixel streams pouring off of the kinetically-charged orbitals and bright colors utilized throughout the game. The stationary orbitals have a very crisp look about them, as well. There is a robotic voice that announces the selected mode, as well as the end of the game. Trippy background music keeps you grooving while you play. The one-touch controls couldn’t be easier.

Many users may find the gameplay frustrating at first. It took us several games of scoring zero points before we finally got on the board. Even then, we have yet to crack double digits, and still we keep coming back for more. The global leaderboards really ramp up the desire to keep playing and improving, too. Orbital is priced at $2.99, and while we usually like to see the more simplistic games reflect a lower price tag, we feel that the polish and addictive gameplay justify the extra cost in this instance. Orbital is a 5-Dimple gotta-have-it game that has earned a permanent place on our iPhone.

Orbital gets our AppSmile 5-Dimple rating:





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