Art Style: Orbient Review

We dig into our archives to present a review of the first Art Style game to hit WiiWare.

By Evan Campbell. Posted 08/20/2010 15:10 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Simple but complex gameplay, great soundtrack
Poison Mushroom for...
Unpredictable rebound, no leader boards

From the far reaches of space, Nintendo sends WiiWare on an elegant and trippy voyage through the stars. A remake of a Japanese bit Generations game, Art Style: Orbient attempts to be accessible while also surprisingly difficult to master -– by no means a simple task. Players take control of a teeny, white planet drifting through the cosmos. With two buttons at your command, players must find a balance of gravitating toward and repelling away from larger planets. The game’s core is compelling, but will you want to delve deeper into this universe or stay firmly grounded on earth?

The humble, GBA origins of the game are easily recognizable. Players will mainly see a stagnant background filled with white star specs. Overlaying this backdrop are red, blue and grey planets of various sizes. It’s visually appealing, but a few additional touches here or there would have been welcome. We would have liked, for example, more setting diversity, as only a few later stages showcase larger worlds or planets on the horizon. The inclusion of a few more special effects or details on the satellites also could have given some personality and pizazz to the package.

To sum up the audio: soothing. Relaxing. Dynamic. Surreal. Even beeps and bloops could be used to describe this sublime soundtrack. The sounds slowly evolve into gripping melodies, as each new satellite a player wraps in orbit around his planet will add a new layer to the music. This audio feature gives off an organic feeling that perfectly molds with the gameplay. Not only will you want to attract new satellites for extra lives but also to hear the tune transform. Our only complaint is the failure to use the Wii Remote speaker, which would have been perfect for certain sound effects. Still, this is vintage Nintendo goodness. Love it.

As for gameplay, the core mechanic of Art Style: Orbient is ridiculously basic. Avoid red planets. Merge with blue planets to grow larger. Pull gray  planets into your orbit as satellites. And ultimately, pull a golden star into your gravitational pull. This straightforward premise, however, slowly unveils into a perplexing, puzzle-like title. Through the course of 30 levels (along with bonus stages), Nintendo throws in some brain-busting challenges. Black holes and purple asteroids dangerously litter the skies. Planets will swing around larger worlds in a clockwork fashion. The variety and design of each sector is top-notch and the simple controls perfectly meld the experience.

Players begin this quest of consumption and enlargement as an insignificant, pasty star. You will use the A button to gravitate toward bigger planets and the B button to repel away. Simple enough. At the same time, the puzzles make the experience trickier than you could ever imagine. We were constantly in awe of the clever stages created and enjoyed each journey into the stars.

Art Style: Orbient Screenshot

Trouble arises, though, with the weird rebound mechanic that occurs when you lose control and accidentally ram into a planet. Like we said, space apparently contains lots of traps to wreck havoc on your day, and as such, failing is a part of this game, as players must learn how to guide their cute star. That said, frustration can set in when you collide with planets because your satellite bounces away in odd, unpredictable directions. This mechanic introduces an element of chance into the game, since the recoil can prove beneficial or instead have you falling into a black hole. Gamers who despise random elements in their games may not like some of the physics in this title.

The only other drawback with the game is in regard to leader boards. Art Style: Orbient concludes each stage with stats such as completion time. We would have loved online rankings to see how fast friends sifted through the various galaxies. Even so, we were impressed that the game lasts a few hours, which is a great value for only 600 Wii Points.

Who knew orbiting planets could be so fun– or difficult, for that matter? Art Style: Orbient successfully finds the balance of being initially accessible yet more challenging as you drift further into space. The music is killer. The core game mechanic is oh-so-addictively-fun. And the price is just right. We do wish the graphics could have been spruced up or that online leader boards were present, and let’s not forget that rebound problem. Still, this is the perfect shuttle for seeing what lies in the far reaches of outer space.

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