Sunday, January 22, 2012

iOS: New Orbit

Just ran across this iOS release. It's a brief space game called New Orbit, from a guy in Austria named Markus Hofer. I had a blast playing it for the couple of hours it took to get through it; it's currently priced at a dollar so if you have the appropriate device and like space games do check it out.

Control is straightforward; touch the screen and your rocket will accelerate in that direction. Physics is Newtonian, so there isn't any drag or maximum speed. The missions keep things fairly focused, though, so you don't have huge velocity changes. The rocket displays its current velocity vector and has a trail display. Asteroids exert gravity, so it's possible to enter stable orbit or land. Other space-game staples like mines (both the ore-extraction and munition sorts) make appearances as well. One of the nice interface touches is that off-screen asteroids are indicated with a bar on the edge of the screen. The bar's length represents the asteroid's subtended angle, so it gives you an idea (assuming you know how big the asteroid is, roughly) how far away it is.

New Orbit has the feel of being the tutorial for a much bigger game; a game that isn't made yet, unfortunately. You don't ever acquire weaponry of your own, for instance, and mining equipment is introduced in one mission and then never used again. What's there is quite polished, though.

In contrast to a lot of the 2D space games (like Flatspace or Captain Forever or Escape Velocity) this one's very story-oriented. It takes you through a linear sequence of missions without room for running around. I thought the story was very entertaining: well-written and well-voice-acted (so far as I could hear with the volume turned low); the whole game sounds like it's being acted by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his buddies since it's all read in Austrian accents. I liked that quite a bit, actually.

Hopefully Mr. Hofer and crew will develop further chapters in this game. In the meantime it's still well worth playing.

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