Do you know that feeling of skiing down a steep hill, one that is a little above your skill level? As the speed increases the control you thought you had slowly dissolves. The use of your treasured pizza-frenchfry technique proves futile leaving you with two options: crash into the snow and watch your skis fly through the air, or focus and pull of a badass maneuver to gain back control. The moment before your fate is sealed there is a wonderful feeling of blissful adrenaline- of thrilling danger. The best moments in PixelNAUTS’ game Lost Orbit are when it successfully enters that unknowing state of thrilling danger.
The story of Lost Orbit follows Harrison, a human tasked with repairing communication satellites. After his ship is destroyed, Harrison is forced to partake in an epic space run back to his home planet. A mysterious A.I., who also serves as the game’s narrator, follows Harrison through his adventures. It’s an intriguing story of isolation, survival, and friendship that reminded me of the film Gravity.
The mood is complemented by a great soundtrack, and solid voice acting. Unfortunately, not every aspect of the game matches its lonely atmosphere. For example, when a level is completed you are greeted with a bombastic over-the-top song that totally undercuts the game’s emotional state. Another example of clashing tones is in the silly death animations. And trust me, you will die a lot. I understand that the developers put the animations in to try to lessen the impact of death since it happens so often but it lost its charm quickly.
Lost Orbit at its core is a time trial racing game, influenced by classics like Mario Kart and Sonic the Hedgehog, although I found the most similarities to Velocity 2X. The game is split into individual levels where your goal is to guide the protagonist as quickly and safely as possible to the end. The quicker you are, the less you die, and the more obtainium (the currency of the game) you collect, the better your score.
There are a few unique mechanics that separate Lost Orbit from other time trial games– most notably the planet-spinning. When passing a planet Harrison can either enter its orbit sending him hurdling around the planet or glance the side of the planet giving him a speed boost.
Other maneuvers include speed boosts, black holes that transport you to another place in the level, or bubbles. If you land inside a bubble you stop and can change your direction. Both the black holes and bubbles serve as safe place to land if your speed is getting out of control.
The lack of control and the thrilling danger is what makes Lost Orbit special but there were times that reminded me of the cheap deaths that plagued the Sonic series where I thought to myself, “There is no way I could have avoided that.” But for the most part Lost Orbit throttles the line brilliantly.
After completing each level your score is tallied and you get either a platinum, gold, silver, bronze, or survivor rank. The better your rank the more bonus obtanium you receive; a much needed crafting material to upgrade Harrison. Upgrades include: extra speed boosters, and bombs used to destroy incoming asteroids. For some reason there was no way to upgrade Harrison in-between levels. Meaning I had to pause mid-level if I wanted to add any upgrades. I’m not sure why they didn’t add an upgrade feature in the main menu. Also, I found the upgrade system confusing. The text was very small and hard to read, and improvements weren’t shown how to be used on the upgrade screen. Instead they were buried in a tutorial screen. I felt like an idiot when I only learned how to brake and barrel roll three quarters of the way through the game.
The main campaign features over 40 levels and took me around three hours to complete but it could have taken longer if I wanted to platinum everything. However I am trying to be less obsessive. The only other mode is a time trial mode where you race against your best score, and the world’s best scores.
The Verdict: 6.9 out of 10
Overall, Lost Orbit feels best when it is hurdling down the steep slope of space. It is a game of speed, risk, and precision. It has an intriguing story, and solid voice-acting. The downside is there isn’t much to do once the main story is finished. There are minor problems with the menus and inconsistent story tone but for those who like time trial games, you’re going to have a good time.
Nathan Reid is an Associate Writer who wants to watch Mad Max again but should get some sunshine.