August 11th, 2012 | By Minh Tri Nguyen
Last week, Curiosity landed on Mars, mankind joyfully marked a milestone in history, and our urge and desire to discover the vast galaxy is now probably higher than ever. We’re still wondering what surprises the outer worlds have been holding for us, and as surprise-filled as a space expenditure should be, there are plenty of them on your smartphone, the really fantastic ones, in a game called New Orbit. We’ve seen physic-based space puzzle before, and not many impressed us well. New Orbit didn’t really stand out from its contenders in the store, but I was almost mistaken by its generic look, and you shouldn’t, either.
In a fictional war in space between the Triterian Empire and Node Collective, Jonah Braun was caught in a bad situation when his secret mission for the latter side went wrong. The mothership was destroyed, and young engineer had no idea about his mission, and got stuck in a damaged shuttle with some emergency rations and a cold AI voice to keep him company. While most puzzle would play just fine without a context, New Orbit, has a story, and surprisingly, an a good one. In fact, the game was story-driven and could keep you interested using the story alone. The entire conversations were fully voiced, not the one you could expect from Mass Effect indeed, but enough to keep you deeply engaged. Plenty of interesting characters came in into play, and you even got to make some choices yourself. This dramatic take is not usual, and I’m grateful for the risk being taken.
As mentioned, New Orbit looks and played like most of other space physic puzzle games. Your ship’s thruster can be activated by tapping and holding on the screen at desired direction, and a yellow line represents the final course of the ship, under accounted effects. Debris, asteroids and mines are scattered on your path, and while there are supplies sometimes, they serve the plot’s purpose rather than gameplay-wise. Your objectives revolve around either collecting certain items floating around, landing onto an target, or establishing an orbit around an asteroid, taking advantage of the gravitational force. They are diverse enough, somewhat enjoyable to execute, and give you a great sense of satisfaction once you manage to pull them off successfully. Really.
If there is anything I can guess about the game, it was made for NASA engineers and employee-alike. While some of the first mission was alright and not too bad, you will soon find yourself in deep struggle with the precision being demanded. Collecting a static item is fine, landing on an asteroid is hard sometimes, avoiding minefields is wrestling, and hovering in stable orbit around asteroids is just plainly painful. Whichever it is, the objective would require you to make meticulous and accurate calculation on the spot, taking your velocity, motion direction, and external force into account. You would be trying over again and again, under the possibility of quit rage at anytime, especially when patience is not in place. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent and resetting is hassle-free, making your repetitive attempts less abominable. In any case, you would prefer that you had aced your physics back in schools, if you didn’t.
Despite a countless number of retries, I managed to finished the game in less than a couple of hours. It was not the end of New Orbit regardless, for this is only the first episode of a to-be-continued story. It was also a delightfully surprising ending that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, despite the atrocious strife with space physics previously. While the short length might turn off some people, but it was a perfect length for me, without awkward fillers or unnecessary segments, especially when you consider the price tag of one dollar.
I only happened to come across New Orbit as a new release on Android’s Google Play market. Despite releasing a month ago on the App Store, the generic first impression caused me to overlook the game. I’m glad I didn’t miss the game eventually, and neither should you. It might be less than two hours, but for the appreciation of something different on your smartphone, it was more than worthy of 99c.
For more information, visit the developer’s website. New Orbit is currently on sale on Android Google Play at 99c, down from the original price of $1.99 at the time of writing. The price remains on iOS App Store. New Orbit is also available on PC and Mac in pay-what-you-want model, with bonus materials for higher prices, in case you’d love to support its development.