Wireframe

Orbital Bullet review: This rogue-lite has us going around in circles

By Jon Bailes. Posted

Orbital Bullet has you running in circles, but that’s just fine. As a squat cyberpunk mercenary, you hunt killer robots around cylindrical towers, like skirting a giant oak tree, letting fly with bullets that follow the curve. Each stage of your oil-soaked, rogue-lite rampage is divided into bite-sized floors with a simple aim – destroy all machines. Fittingly, it’s all very neatly executed. Squint a little, in fact, and you could almost be playing a Housemarque game. Sure, Orbital Bullet doesn’t wield quite the same grade of bombast as Nex Machina, but the metallic shine of its chunky dystopia and the industrial bass in its soundtrack evoke that amped feel.

Control, too, is comparably slick. A double jump and dodge roll will stop you from getting boxed in, while guns are rapid and punchy. At times, the curved view causes visibility issues, like when you can’t see enemies firing from over 90 degrees away, but mostly the rotating landscape is visually intuitive, and even when layouts are complicated with a second inner ring, hopping between them never breaks your flow.

It’s a good job, because you need to stay on your toes against an array of homicidal machines whose attacks have a habit of combining to flesh-searing effect. Once you recognise their individual threats, the combat puzzle is about finding space, using platforms to gain height, and picking your shots, until the next biome introduces new antagonists that force you to adapt. Of course, there’s more than one way to de-chrome a droid, and the weapons and skills you select along the way will affect your play style, especially when it comes to range – choose from shotguns, sniper rifles, and everything in between.

Orbital Bullet’s rogue-lite credentials are similarly well-considered, ticking all the expected ‘metagame’ boxes based on an initially bewildering array of upgrade currencies. Along with mid-run skill points and credits for shopping, you’ll gather three further types to spend back at your home hub, unlocking new abilities for each character class, various starting boons, and more weapons (with the aid of blueprints you find in the field). Once it clicks into place, it makes for a balanced challenge. Potentially repetitive early stages melt in minutes and you inch into untamed territory with each attempt.

There’s no denying, however, that we’ve seen all these systems before. There are lumps of Dead Cells and other rogue-lites in Orbital Bullet, and although developer SmokeStab has clearly picked the parts with care, they’re still second-hand. The question, then, is whether it’s enough to reuse them proficiently, while nailing the action fundamentals. If your answer’s yes, then Orbital Bullet is well worth a spin.

Highlight

Part way through the campaign you should unlock the Eternity Tower‭, ‬an extra game mode that represents the‭ ‬Orbital Bullet‭ ‬experience at its most distilled‭. ‬Trimming out the minor exploration element of the main game‭, ‬you blast your way to the top of‭ ‬50‭ ‬floors or simply survive in Endless Mode as long as you can‭.‬

Verdict

74%

A polished action rogue-lite that delivers where it counts‭.‬

Genre Rogue-lite platform shooter | Format PC (tested) | DeveloperSmokeStab | Publisher Assemble Entertainment | Price £24.99 | Release Out now | Social @SmokeStab

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