If developer Laughing Jackal could be said to have a signature style, it's this: simple game concepts in well-made packages.
Orbit - the studio's latest Minis offering - is no exception, delivering a physics-based collectathon that's easy to understand and richly rewarding when mastered, if lacking in replay value.
The aim of the game is simple: blast across the surface of nine planets picking up design blueprints, discovering ancient monuments, and attempting to circumnavigate each globe in order to unlock the next.
The catch is that your space program is woefully underfunded and unable to afford traditional propulsion methods, meaning you'll have to settle for a toilet with rockets strapped on, or a pair of arm-powered wings for some of your earlier flights.Economy class
Handily, your mission is to collect gold that happens to be floating about the atmosphere of each planetoid, and between flights you can exchange these for upgrades to your craft.
This allows your initial launch to go farther and your Ore Collector to have a wider reach, and it lets you install windshield-wipers. This last addition is more useful than you might imagine, as an army of alien creatures blocks your path, squirting goo on your screen or draining fuel from your reserves.
It's an odd game, shot through with humour. Dialogue between missions between the two professors meanders between double entendre and gross-out comedy. There's no major storyline to follow, but Orbit doesn't need it: it aims for fun above all else.
And it hits this mark. Control is reduced to just the one button, which initially lets you set the power with which your ship will propel itself from the launch pad. When you're in the air the button applies thrusters and increases the altitude of your craft as you coax it across the planet.
While it's a basic system of play, adding new gizmos to your ship and reaching farther and farther distances offers a constant sense of progression and reward. Though it's not essential to visit every sci-fi reference-inspired landmark, the obsessive part of your brain will kick in, making you want to see them all just to have a complete collection.Rocket Man
The other elements to the game are Boosts: small pick-ups that give you short bursts of speed in a horizontal direction without using up your energy. While these can get you farther in a run, they can also send you hurtling directly into space junk or, worse, past that fragment of blueprint you need.
They're precisely placed by the developer to act as a momentum conundrum - another element you need to take into consideration to obtain absolutely everything. The only issue is that sometimes you can't see what's ahead, making the first few attempts at nabbing the object of your affections a case of trial and error.
Though Orbit isn't particularly ambitious in its visual design, its music is diverse and well-chosen. Cool beats and acoustic sounds accompany your travels with a hint of Firefly, which is no bad thing at all.
It's possible to see and collect everything within four or five hours, meaning the game never outstays its welcome. Rapid load times and instant action make for a product that's easy to jump into when you have 15 minutes to spare.
There's nothing in the way of long-term appeal after you've finished it, though - just a few achievements and local leaderboards.
Another great Minis offering from the company, Orbit sets off with a rudimentary play mechanic and lands a well-constructed, quality release.
Though we'd like to see the studio stretch itself a little further with future endeavours and present something truly inspired, this release is well worth the small cost of entry.