Here is the thing, I’m a sucker for roguelikes/roguelites. It might be the masochist in me, but I really enjoy going through the same challenges over and over again to get better. It’s a harrowing experience and just like real life – I love it! Some of my favorite games include Hades, Rogue Knight, and Crypt of the Necrodancer. Naturally, I got super excited when I saw Orbital Bullet, a roguelite shootemup in 360°! Keep in mind that at the time of writing this Orbital Bullet review, the game is still in early access.
Orbital Bullet Review: What Is It?
Orbital Bullet’s shtick is that all the action takes place on a 360 circular field. You, enemies, and bullets spin round and round in an otherwise normal shooter/platformer setting. But there is a lot more to Orbital Bullet than that.
Like any other roguelite, the game features a progression system using “nanobytes” that reset on every new run. And although there is a huge emphasis on the “kill. die. modify” ethos of the game, a lot of the progression depends on you getting better at the game. Still, it’s nice to have loads of weapons, perks, and upgrades that give you a lot to look forward to.
The game also features vaguely-defined classes that provide you with different perks and upgrades. Of course, it is up to you which class to upgrade to match your playstyle. Play through procedurally generated levels, different worlds, and bosses of varying degrees of difficulty until the game breaks you or you break it.
Like A Record, Baby
Most games with a concept as unique as Orbital Bullet stop at the idea. But this game is so much more than just spinning around on a record. Not saying the concept was not good or wasn’t executed properly, but even without the 360 playing field Orbital Bullet would have been a fun rougelike.
The roguelike chassis of Orbital Bullet is incredibly solid. The skill tree and upgrade system of the game may not be breaking any new grounds, but for a returning roguelite fan they were great. The upgrades themselves vary from decent to good with nothing that breaks the progression without a proportionate amount of effort required. The guns are also a lot of fun, and there were a lot of them. The sheer variety makes it so you can have a favorite weapon, but still enjoy each run whether you get it or not.
The visuals of the game are also something I enjoyed quite a lot. This dead-cells-meets-risk-of-rain aesthetic worked especially well with Orbital Bullet. For a game as tight as this, the usage of colors and effects make the difference between immersive and what-the-hell-is-happening. And indeed, the game’s colors are striking enough for you to know what is what and it doesn’t completely rely on flashy effects littering your screen.
There is much more to enjoy about Orbital Gun, too. The controls of Orbital Bullet are slick, enemies are unique, and the difficulty is just right. It is an overall well-executed game. However, it is not without a few flaws.
A Broken Record, Sometimes
Try as I might to not judge the game for its early access status, it can interfere too much with the experience. All things considered, Orbital Bullet clearly suffers the symptoms of the early access syndrome.
While the gameplay is a whole lot of fun, it is more apt to call it promising than great. For every great feature I enjoyed, I have a “but” or an “if only” lurking in the back of my head. Movement feels great but jumping and rolling feel a little ridiculous. The gunplay is amazing, but each gun takes too long to unlock (I finished the main game and I had only unlocked 5 extra weapons). The visuals are great but the environment can feel a little bare. The list goes on and on.
The game still needs a little bit of polish and a little bit of love. Seeing how the game is at this point and how it has another year of development to go, I have no doubts all these issues will be addressed. However, right now the experience is the slightest bit off-key.
Risk of rain mixed with contra on trippy 360 platforms, what’s not to like? Orbital Bullet is a smashing concept that is executed really well. Any roguelike/lite such as myself will find hours of fun and frustration (the good kind) between the folds of this hidden gem.
Yes, some screws need to be tightened and edges filed, but there is something here that will appeal to most audiences. I would definitely recommend Orbital Bullet, and I will personally probably revisit the game again when it makes its official debut.
Again, this Orbital Bullet review was written for the early access version of the game. I’m looking forward to what the developers will do with this great concept and base. If you’d like to check it for yourself make sure to check out Orbital Bullet on Steam.