Art Style: Orbient

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Sep 29, 2008 Art Style: Orbient NA
Individual Release Specifications[ Click here to collapse ]
Title: Art Style: Orbient
Region: America Release: Sep 29, 2008
Model #: Unknown Price: 600 Wii Points
Rating: E - Everyone
Brandings: Art Style
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
In Short:
Simplistic perfection. Shame about the name.

My sole complaint about Art Style: Orbient is that it sounds pretty dumb when I'm trying to verbally recommend it to friends. Say it out loud with me: "You should try Art Style: Orbient." "Get some Wii Points and download Art Style: Orbient." What was wrong with calling it 'Orbital'? What market could possibly be best-served by prefixing the game's title in the WiiWare catalog with 'Art Style' if it can't even be pronounced without tripping over one's tongue and feeling silly?

The game itself, though, is simplistic perfection. This WiiWare update to the only-in-Japan bit Generations GBA title Orbital doesn't try to add any fluff to that game's perfect zone-out formula—just a couple nice gameplay touches, a simple, tasteful graphical update, and new stages. (I do have a tip, though, for those with old, dark TVs: you'll want to crank the brightness in the game's options screen.)

For those new to Orbital gameplay—given its Japan-only status, that's pretty much all of you—you play as a planetary body floating through space, absorbing like-sized planets to grow bigger, passing by smaller bodies to add them to your own orbits. Eventually, you'll grow large enough to pick up the goal planet and clear the level.

What makes this game is how you control it. You don't use sticks, d-pads, or pointers; you use only the A and B on the Remote. A attracts you to a nearby planet; B repels you. It's all physics from there. Orbient adds a really nice touch here by visualizing the pull or push, something Orbital lacked. If you're within range of a body that can pull on you, you'll see white particles pulling you as you hold A; when repelling, you'll see little anti-gravity waves on the surface of any planet you're pushing away from.

And that's it, really. You don't get laser upgrades or shields that can repel certain classes of enemy invasions; the game builds its complexity instead through level design and new classes of obstacles, making it increasingly challenging but very satisfying to navigate your way successfully around things you can't absorb to get to things you can. It's just you, gravity, and the planets; a sublime experience with the layered ambient music on a good set of stereo speakers, and you parked in a comfortable recliner guiding your planet with just your thumb and forefinger. Don't move... just guide.

Completionists such as myself can derive great satisfaction from picking up as many satellites as possible without accidentally absorbing them. You'll be rewarded for doing so at the end of the level, so it's worthwhile. There's also the challenge of picking up the special moon satellite that appears in every level near the end. The moon is a one-shot deal; if you bump into it you'll lose it, and if you don't get it in your orbit before you finish the level, you'll have to do the level all over again to do so—perfect fodder for the player who wants to prove his skill at precision control. (If Orbient is like Orbital, getting all the moons will reward you with extra levels, too.)

As far as I'm concerned, Orbient is one of WiiWare's must-haves. It's certainly not going to break your bank at $6, especially when you hold it up against how much it cost to import its GBA predecessor, or even purchase any number of lesser WiiWare titles. There are at least two more games in the Art Style series coming up, Nintendo says, giving me hope for WiiWare's future. I just wish they'd not hid its greatness behind such a name.
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