The merging of a serious puzzle game and a 2D side-scrolling action title isn’t exactly an easy combo to muster. But, the universe is a vast and mysterious place and out of it has come just such an amalgamation recently greenlit by the Steam community. Imagine Asteroids on uppers with top-down puzzles and you’ll start to get a good idea of ORB’s basic gameplay. That might sound like a far out idea, but a short time with the alpha demo for the game plants the mechanics solidly on terra firma, with clever in-game incentives tying the two worlds together.
You play as the titular space entity Orb as you fly, dodge and blast your way through to various constellations. Each constellation leads Orb to what is called the “Puzzleverse” where, as you might have guessed, the player will be faced with top-down block-based challenges testing your ability to not only figure out what goes where, but how the overall puzzle is interconnected. For example, one early puzzle I played through gave Orb temporary X-ray vision that allows the player to see what section will be activated if a certain block is placed in a particular space. From there, I had to then solve how to move each block to the proper area and in what order.
Another required me to use a conveyor belt-like system to get each block to it’s proper destination without sending a block in the wrong direction and thus requiring me to start over (which did happen a couple of times). Each puzzle adds a level of complexity using a combination of in-puzzle elements and abilities Orb will acquire both in the wormholes and Puzzlesverse in order to solve them. This is ultimately what binds the two sections together.
During my first wormhole fly-through I obtained a dash ability that allowed me to outrun rogue comets bent on shooting me out of the stars. I also obtained a blast ability that allowed me to shoot enemies and obstacles out of my way. Within the Puzzleverse, my blast ability was later utilized to push blocks into place that I otherwise could not reach. The way these elements play within each section is clever and feeds well into not only the enjoyment of the fast-paced, run-and-gun wormhole sections, but adds yet another layer of difficulty to the puzzles.
Along with the 12 unlockable abilities (including Time Stop, Translocate, Bash and Harpoon), I was able to unlock upgrades to Orb that made me more of a force to be reckoned with within the wormhole sections. After completing my first puzzle I unlocked a health upgrade that extended my life bar. You will also unlock upgrades that will increase your strength and make your blasts a destructive sight to behold and might elicit an evil cackle. I was personally tempted to shout Ozymandias quotes to the universe (“Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!”), but a simple “Kamehameha!” or other guttural shout of victory will do.
ORB is a unique title for sure, but one that manages to pull together in a compelling way what might otherwise have felt like two incongrous gameplay sections. The alpha demo demonstrates great potential for an Action/Puzzle game that requires players to engage all of their cognitive abilities in order to conquer it. Leaderboards will also incentivize players to complete puzzles in the fewest moves and blast through wormholes in the fastest time.
Developer Devil’s Peek Games has promised co-op puzzles and challenges along with additional puzzle elements which will serve as an even stronger incentive for players who like to make their way through as a team. We personally hope to see even more abilities integration between the Puzzleverse and wormhole areas. For now, though, the demo makes us want more. Enjoyable and difficult puzzles coupled with fast and furious flights through the dangerous and yet often beautiful depths of space makes ORB a puzzle title for arcade game lovers, and vice versa.
Devil’s Peek Games recently made a publishing deal with Keystone Games and the game will now be released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One as well.