I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing better than a relaxing ball roller; one that looks to harness the magic of Marble Madness or Marble Blast Ultra from all those years back. And in recent months we’ve seen a bit of an influx of such titles, albeit with none ever really managing to deliver the joy required. Can Orbibot?
There is no setup for Orbibot. No story, no narrative, no helpful voice telling you what to do, where to go or why you’re doing it. It’s just you, you little Orbibot friend (if you hadn’t guessed by the title, this guy’s a robot who’s an orb) and 15 levels of physics-based puzzle levels to slowly work your way through. The aim is to reach the teleportation device at the end of each stage, at which point your friendly neighborhood bot is fragmented into thousands of tiny pieces, before re-emerging in the next stage.
On paper, that’s exactly what we want from such a game. But unfortunately there are elements which hold Orbibot back from the heights it should so easily hit.
Slowly does it is the key here, and that’s not because the puzzles are tricky or the stages are devious. In fact, for the most part these 15 stages are pretty well-worked sprawling affairs; each of which can be completed in 15 minutes or less. The problem is, you’ll want to take things slowly, because the controls are god damn awful, imprecise and extremely annoying.
In any puzzler or platformer which deals with physics and precision, you need to know that the inputs you are putting in will always be regular, standard, precise. The problem with Orbibot though is that isn’t the case.
Strangely linked in some way to the angle of the camera (controlled by the right stick), the movement and input decided by either the left stick or the d-pad in Orbibot is rarely uniform. You see, sometimes you’ll be moving slowly slowly, catching monkeys. Whilst at other times your Orbibot friend will be whizzing around the stages, out of control, at times slipping and sliding more than rolling. Dare to view things from an overhead point and neither up nor down will see much movement made. There is just no consistency which is required for such a game. With movement of your bot sometimes allowed whilst in the air, but again, not always, it’s extremely tricky to ever get a grasp on what this spherical bot is going to do.
Yes, you eventually begin to get used to it, but even after 15 stages and a couple of hours of gameplay needed for full completion, you’ll rarely think you’ve nailed it, left always on edge.
Things get worse when you consider the camera too. Even with the amending of its sensitivity settings and axes in the menus, I’ve still not found a setup that is to my liking. When you’re needing to move this camera constantly, shifting around obstacles, platforms and level structures every few seconds, the lack of real control allowed is borderline terrible.
In fact, I like to think of myself as a fairly easy going guy, and am pretty proud that the amount of times I’ve needed to rage quit a game in near 40 years of gaming can be counted on one hand, but Orbibot has very nearly pushed me over the edge on multiple occasions. That’s not what you want from a relaxing puzzler.
Thankfully there is some good stuff here and aside from the awful control scheme, what PS Games have created is decent enough. Stages are full of plenty of different obstacles from lasers and mirrors, to platforms and switches, right up to rails and hamster tubes to send your Orbibot down. With the occasional need to race other balls that you release into the world, frantically hitting switches to allow them safe passage, or drop crates and cylinders onto travelators as you send them heading towards specific buttons, the cleverly crafted sprawling stages are absolutely fine.
Again though, trying to push cylinders and boxes onto convexed pressure pads with a sphere is the work of a madman. Surely it wouldn’t have been too much of an ask to concave these pads, if only to allow for easier placement of items.
Orbibot looks alright though, and even though there is a bit of stutter and tear occasionally this can just about be overlooked. The same goes for the audio – it’s alright, nicely delivering the beeps and boops from your Orbibot at every turn, with environmental sounds enhancing the immersion. Unfortunately the backing soundtracks which are in place to help pass the time do nothing but grind, so you’ll want to turn those down fairly swiftly.
There’s not an awful lot to Orbibot but it does do the job asked of it. If you’re looking for a game in which you can kick back, reel off a few stages and then head back into something altogether higher in quality, it’ll helpfully fill a gap, even more so should you wish to go hunting plastic cats that are hidden in each stage. Why plastic cats? God knows, but it does allow for some replayabiltiy.
It’s a shame however that nothing in Orbibot is timed as, taking into account those controls again, this could well work as a speedrunning frenzy. Brute forcing some routes and flying through the air instead of using the platforms that are in place would be a viable tactic, adding to a potential speedrunning nature of the game.
It’s also a shame, or not depending on how you look at gaming life, that the Xbox achievement system and Gamerscore grabbing opportunities sit on the verge of being pointless. In fact, all achievements and the full 1000 Gamerscore can easily be taken home in 10 minutes flat, with most obtainable through the first 2 stages alone. It begs the question as to why the porting team of Ratalaika Games have seen fit to throw such easy cheevo earning opportunities out there, as it possibly negates the need for gamers to even bother playing through the rest of the game. On the other hand, it’s that when combined with the low asking price which will ensure many take a punt.
At the end of the day Orbibot will fill a gap, as long as that gap isn’t a deep one. Aside from the extremely dodgy controls and camera, this is a fairly fun little physics-based puzzler which does its best to kill a bit of time. You’ll find it frustrating at times, but for many the easy gathering of Gamerscore could well negate those problems.
Take in the latest in the soothing marble genre with Orbibot on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One