Working in space must be a lonely job, but it’s a job somebody has to do. In LOST ORBIT: Terminal Velocity, the hero of the hour is Harrison, a guy who just so happens to be one of the few who have ventured out into space to conduct maintenance work on a relay. Space is full of deadly hazards though, and after a sudden impact smashes into Harrison’s spaceship, utterly destroying it and the relay he was working on, he becomes the loneliest person in the universe, totally cut off from the rest of humanity and left to drift forevermore. Fortunately, you’re not entirely alone as Atley, Harrison’s sentient drone, has survived too – happily throwing humorous comments your way during the bleakest of space travels.
You’d probably expect someone stranded in space to be at the centre of a freak-out episode, but Harrison is not that type of guy. Instead what you’ll be doing is guiding Harrison through space courtesy of his self-built custom jet thrusters, avoiding meteors and debris whilst trying to collect crystals and reach the end of each level in the quickest time possible. If you’re good enough, you might just achieve a platinum score. Might being the key word.
You’ll be doing this across three different game modes with LOST ORBIT: Terminal Velocity. Campaign, Challenge and Time Attack are all available options but regardless of which mode you pick, you will essentially be playing through 23 different levels set across four game worlds, with a further fifth world and five more levels unlocking within the DLC-like Epilogue stages that are available once you’ve completed the original Campaign.
If we start with Campaign then, and here, as mentioned before, players are tasked with gaining the fastest possible time to the end of each level through clever use of Harrison’s jet thrusters. You’ll also be found utilising the small and short momentary speed boost that is applied by circling a planet’s orbit before jetting off into the progressive path once more. There is very little more to each level besides trying to avoid making contact with anything besides the collectable pink crystals within each level.
At the end of each stage players are given an overall rank for their performance, collated from factors such as time taken to complete the level, Obtanium collected (the pink crystals) and the number of deaths accrued. A platinum rank is the goal for a successful run, but one that requires perfection with every Obtanium collected, a low time and no deaths taken in – no easy task for even the most skilful players. There is also a place on the leaderboards waiting should you be good enough and with LOST ORBIT bringing plenty of that ‘one more go’ feeling with it, there is always that itch that makes you want to shave just an extra few seconds of your time until the early hours of the morning.
During each stage, Atley, the A.I. drone that is overwatching Harrison’s journey, paints the lonely tale, first of all pointing out the feelings of hunger, but later on conversing on more serious notes. Harrison though is surprisingly silent on the whole affair, simply going about his business and keeping his eyes on the goal of one day returning home.
To aid in the progress through each level players can make use of a planet’s orbit, which if grazed can propel Harrison with incredible speed for a short distance, whilst checkpoints do a great job of refuelling the jet pack’s thrusters as well as providing a suitable respawn point should you crash into unexpected space debris or the surface of a planet. If utilised correctly this gravitational pull can aid in a near perfect run through a level – although you will need to have learnt the best moments to apply boosters.
As far as gameplay goes, that’s about all you’ll get out of LOST ORBIT: Terminal Velocity, but whilst that may sound rather simplistic, what ties it together nicely is the fact that the controls feel fantastic. In fact, moving Harrison is as fluid as you can ever imagine, as you make split-second movements that can completely change his direction, or prove to be that last gasp saviour before connecting with a planet’s surface.
As you’d expect, any game that focuses on speed has a timer in place, along with a ton of hazards that are begging to see you meet your maker, whether that be through poor hand eye coordination or a simple mistake. Dying is something you’ll take in over and over again in LOST ORBIT. Fortunately, it’s no real issue thanks to the quick restarts made possible by the mid-level checkpoint system that will get you back into the action in mere seconds. The real hassle comes from those who will be looking to chase down that 100% completion as the loading times included aren’t something you’ll find quite as graceful as the quick restart option; there’s a bit of a wait occurring each time.
If you look away from LOST ORBIT’s Campaign offering, the next stop is Challenge or Time Attack and whilst these modes are certainly enjoyable, they don’t quite offer the big change you’d like to see from additional modes. Challenge simply consists of some slightly different layouts, whilst Time Attack sees you attempting to get to the end of a level in the fastest time possible once more. They aren’t bad modes, but it would have been nice to see a completely fresh and new objective included, rather than more of what we have already had time with during the main mode.
Once you’ve completed the original Campaign offering, a unique set of missions titled the Epilogue become available and these are something I feel a little conflicted on. First of all comes the introduction of a voice to our previously silent space-faring protagonist – and this is slightly strange. After all, if The Stig began each episode of Top Gear with a conversation it would be a little weird, wouldn’t it? And the same principle applies here as after spending several hours racing to each checkpoint with a silent protagonist, what is included in the Epilogue just doesn’t quite fit. It’s not completely immersion breaking but it does feel slightly out of place having played with nothing but the voice of Atley throughout the game. That said, the extra hazards that come with the new missions do bring the necessary changes needed to bring a bout of freshness to things and whilst the Epilogue missions are easily the hardest missions in the game, they are also the best.
Another important thing to note are the visuals and if you like your games full of vibrant colours and cutesy characters, then LOST ORBIT is one you’re going to love. With a protagonist that would out-cute even the world of LEGO, and a space environment that takes things away from the darkness of black holes and introduces some beautiful nebulas and a rainbow-worthy colour palette, this is certainly a game that knows how to leave a memorable visual glint in the eye, with a smattering of comical humour for good measure.
Overall though and if you’re looking for one of those pick up and play games that can be enjoyed for either a few minutes or a couple of hours at a time, then LOST ORBIT: Terminal Velocity on Xbox One is the game for you. With levels that keep things short and sweet, comes with simplicity in its controls and just enough gameplay challenge to keep you occupied, this is one of those indies you need in your gaming collection. It doesn’t do much on originality, and it may not be challenging for Game Of The Year awards, but it certainly deserves some quality attention.