Those that are old enough, and I am one of those persons, will remember Irem’s side scroll shoot-em-up, R-Type. You’d also more than likely either played it in an arcade, or as I did, on a Sinclair ZX Sprectrum. Many a xenomorph was laid to waste by the firepower of R-9a “Arrowhead”, as I defended human civilization from the alien horde.
When I saw Firebase’s newest release, Orbitron: Revolution for the first time, I instantly travelled back to those moments of playing R-Type, hovering up and down the screen while aliens vapourised from my pixel bullets. I know this game wasn’t going to be R-Type, nothing ever could, but I was hoping it would create a spark, or at least bring back some of the magic.
The basic premise of Orbitron is that you’re a pilot of a ship, and you have to defend four areas of a giant ring, I guess you’d call it a space station. The longer the round progresses the more flying androids spawn, and in turn the tougher the defence of the areas becomes. There are two modes available to you from the start, those being ‘Countdown’ and ‘Guardian’.
Ones main objective within Countdown is to score as many points as you can within 3 minutes, and not having played a scrolling shooter for a long time, there was much derping the first few attempts. The movement of the ships is very fluid and responsive, however, this same fluidity and responsive behaviour took me unawares. Many a crash was had due to not taking into consideration the speed of manoeuvring. For those that are really into finding out how to get a better score, or work out where they went wrong, this mode even has a replay function at the end of the round. With 5 camera angles to play with, I’m sure you can have some fun with it.
Guardian Mode in my opinion is the hardest of the two available. The shooting, flying and basic mechanics are the same, but the strategy behind it is a lot more taxing. You have to stop drilling droids from damaging the four areas (A, B, C and D) you’re defending, but more than one is under attack at any one time, and you need to quickly assess which area is most under threat, can you get to it quick enough, or is it better to save a closer section that will soon be in just as much guarding. There is access to portals that warp you to the next section, so you do have those at your disposal if required.
There is another mode that is unlockable, and is my personal favourite and goes by the name of Extra. It is basically a survival mode, where you have one ship (1 life) and your objective is to just stay alive as long as you can against ever increasing waves of droids. At its simplest level the mode is nothing more than a points scoring game, however, I found it the most fun and have played it more than the other two combined.
I have to say, although I didn’t really get out of the game as much as I would have liked, and after a while it felt more like Wipeout with guns, more than it does R-type, I still find myself jumping in to have a few rounds. Unfortunately that is all I can manage too, as I soon find my eyes beginning to strain, which I believe is probably because of the speed and movement of the ship. As fluid as they are, a lot of bouncing around the screen to shoot down droids is required, add into that the need to spam pink beams and the general speed of the game overall, my eyes suffer. Although I wouldn’t let that put you off though as it’s more than likely my failing as a mere mortal.
*Something I’ve found quite strange though is in the controls. You can use a keyboard, and it’s fine, absolutely nothing wrong with the setup, but for some reason there is no controller option. You’d automatically think you’d be able to use a controller on a game that was first released on a platform that requires one (see first image), unless of course my logic is flawed, which I don’t believe it is. *(I have recently discovered that an Xbox Controller does work, must have been driver issues!)
One other grievance I have with the game is the sound, and I don’t mean the music, as I quite like the techno-futuristic vide. What I’m on about though is that when you up Orbitron, the music is ear-haemorrhagingly (new word) loud, even when you changed the sound settings within the audio options on your previous gaming session. Your chosen settings only seem to come into play when you’ve got passed the arcade style ‘Press Enter’ screen. Personally I’d like to see that changed, otherwise you either have to suffer the pain, or turn your onboard sound down, and then alt+tab out to put it back up, not ideal.
On the whole though, quite a pleasurable experience with some good old arcade style modes to choose from. If you’re one of those gamers that likes to get high scores you’ll probably get a lot of replayabilty from the title, and even if you aren’t a score whore and simply enjoy shooting shit with a space ship, you’ll probably still get some enjoyment from it. At £2.99/$4.99/€3.49 you can’t really complain for what you’re getting, a well polished side scroll shoot-em-up in space, perfect!