Do you remember the Rolling Ball genre? An extremely niche genre, games that fall under the Rolling Ball category put you in complete control of – as the name implies – a rolling ball. Unlike sports games, where action may be performed unto an object to move it, you are in direct control of the ball. Now, an entire genre in which the sole criteria is control over a specific shape – in this instance, a sphere – might seem like a novel, if gimmicky, concept perfect for a small team like Tiny Lab to tackle.
Orborun is an incredibly simple title. This should be a given, but there’s a surprising amount of content to enjoy here, much more than one would expect from a PC port of a mobile game, anyway. At most, you’ll use five keys if you’re playing on keyboard and mouse, which works just as well as the gamepad, if not better. You move with A and D, press space or escape to move to the next level or quit to the world select menu respectively, pause with P and restart the level completely with R. That last one is huge, because the level rest is instant, and for an intense 3D platformer ball rolling game such as this, it’s an absolute must.
The game’s content is broken up into worlds comprised of fifteen levels. These levels are extremely short, and can sometimes be beaten in half a minute or less. Though a lot of them are a blur to me (as they should be) I felt that all of the stages together did an excellent job introducing concepts and building on each other with varying levels of complexity. I breezed through a world in less than half an hour, but upon reviewing my progress, I found that I was awarded only one of three stars for each level, giving plenty of incentive to go back and try again. The levels are short enough that retrying ad nauseam isn’t such a huge deal, because what little frustration I felt with Orborun was mitigated by the very small amount of lost progress.
Momentum is the name of the game here. I selected the first level of the first world, and within a few minutes I was acclimatised to Orborun’s mechanics within a minute or two. Actually, I couldn’t tell you where the “tutorial” ended and the game proper began, and that’s just the way I like it. Before long I was diving head first into increasingly complex levels that ramped up the speed and difficulty from a relaxing stroll to butt-clenching turbo speeds.
There are three different kinds of worlds, each with a “sequel” world, in addition to a mysterious bonus stage. The first stage, Haste, is a quick romp through fast-paced levels that shouldn’t give you too much trouble until near the end. Haste is followed by Puzzle, which actually doesn’t involve “puzzles” in the traditional sense (despite the aesthetic, this isn’t Portal) but rather a slightly shifted focus from high speed rollicking to mechanical manipulation and precision platforming. Hazard is the third stage, and that’s where shit gets real. I fell into a pit about half a second in at least thrice, but that’s also due in large part to me being so terrible at these types of games.
If you’re worried that you aren’t going to get a great value with this game, worry not. If you’re in the mood for a simple arcade joyride, this is well worth picking up. Seven worlds might not seem like a lot of a content, but when you factor in the difficulty curve and replay value for perfectionists to achieve higher scores, you’ve got plenty of content for your dollar. There’s also a few extra costumes for to unlock as well, which is always welcome. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the in-game currency will buy you much else other than that.
Finally, there’s a functional split-screen local multiplayer mode that supports two, three or four players. It’s not something I really needed or even expected, but splitscreen co-op games are so rare nowadays that I’ll give it praise for inclusion alone. If I had a few friends and a PC set up in my living room, I could see myself having a reasonably fun time with it, at least for a little while.
In many ways, it reminds me of another game brought to Steam from an indie platform through Greenlight, T.E.C. 3001. Both games feature a simple, yet eye-catching visual design that gets the job done without being a terrible eyesore, with cool electronic music to which you’d expect a robot to enjoy listening. On, I’d say I like the Orborun soundtrack even more. The challenging high-speed action of the experience is juxtaposed by its soothing, mellow music, though after a few hours of play, you’ll have heard the short soundtrack several times over.
Orborun might be the latest entry into a ridiculously niche genre as old as the Amiga, but it’s still enjoyable. If you liked T.E.C. 3001, or perhaps other similar running games, this might be worth a look. Both games feature similar gameplay mechanics, sharing an emphasis on momentum and movement on a narrow lane with a focus on sharp reflexes over anything else.
Ready to roll?
If you're a fan of other Rolling Ball games like Katamari and Super Monkey Ball, there should be plenty of space in your Steam library for Orborun.