Orbital Bullet has all the trappings of a game that can pull you in for an addictively good time, while also having the curse of being an annoying, frustrating mess. It’s all rooted in its rougelike gameplay choices. Orbital Bullet is a rougelike after all, with each and every run of the game being completely different from the last. This can be a good thing, as it changes the game (literally) every time. The problem is that you never know what you’re going to get each time you play, which drastically changes your enjoyment of the game. While there’s some fun to be had, The game does nothing new for the rougelike genre, and your enjoyment is entirely dependent on your love of rougelike games.
Orbital Bullet is best described as a “run ‘n gun;” a constantly moving, avoiding and destroying enemies type of experience. However, it isn’t a traditional run ‘n gun game. This is down to its wrap-around level design which are randomly generated circular cylinders. You’re tasked with destroying all enemies before going on to the floors either above or below. After beating several levels, a boss battle commences, with the end goal being to take down a hierarchy of evil interplanetary councilors.
Orbital Bullet is a fun experience that makes good use of the types of hazards and challenges that could only exist within circular stages; for example, lasers and sniper rifles. These shots wrap around the entire battlefield, which means no enemy is out of reach. Some enemies that can only be attacked from behind are quite common, and there are even some enemies that will hang around within an inner circle and throw projectiles into your path. A few stages even have their own set dangers. Take the opening cave biome, for instance. During your play in this cave, the stage will occasionally emit pulsating waves that must be rhythmically leaped over every few seconds.
The rougelike elements in Orbital Bullet go far beyond level layouts. Each run begins with a random weapon drop—anything from shotguns, rifles, lasers, cannonball launchers, etc.—that ranges wildly for each playthrough. Perks such as life and credit boosters are found randomly in chests that are given to you as a sort of bonus for beating times or achieving a certain kill count. Shops are also completely random, giving you a random mix of items to choose from. When your run comes to an end (and trust me when I say it will come to an end sooner than you think), a skill tree appears that allows you to unlock permanent upgrades. This is big because these permanent upgrades carry over to your next playthroughs.
The main issue with Orbital Bullet is the very gameplay element that defines the genre: rougelike randomness. Your failings or successes in Orbital Bullet comes down to complete randomness out of your control. On some good runs you’re given a great starting weapon, easy stage, and manageable enemies. Other runs, you’re given a terrible weapon, difficult stage, and an insane swarm of difficult enemies to deal with. It’s all completely random, and thus your enjoyment will equally be as random. The bad runs were far more common and frustrating than the good runs.
The other issue with Orbital Bullet is that even when you’re playing on a “good run” (a run where the game is more fair to you and actually gives you a chance to win), the game does nothing new to stand out in a rougelike crowd bursting at the seams with different game offerings. It’s rougelike gameplay has been done to death in nearly every game genre out there, especially in a run ‘n gun style game. Its circular stage design has been done years ago in games like Resogun. There’s just nothing new that Orbital Bullet brings to the table.
Orbital Bullet is a fine rougelike run ‘n gun game that can be fun for a few hours. Its circular stage design and rougelike randomness offer a wide ranging experience every time you play. That rougelike element will ultimately be the make-or-break for anyone’s enjoyment of the game. In my experience, it’s usually more unfair to you when you start a run, giving you the worst weapons, stages and enemies to fight. It also does nothing new that a few dozen other games haven’t done before. Orbital Bullet can best be described as an average experience designed for those who truly love roguelike games.
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