Evil Orbs has been developed by GoBit Games, a two-man indie team in Don Walters and Brian Rothstein. Individually their backgrounds are exemplary. Together they have a combined experience of working with some of the industry’s most significant companies including PopCap, Pogo, Electronic Arts, Maxis, and Sierra Online. The list of games equally as big such as Zuma, Peggle, Insaniquarium, SimCity 2000 and many others.
These names alone should tell you that these guys understand the magic that goes into creating successful games. And with Evil Orbs the proof, so to speak, is in the pudding or the gameplay in this instance. The game’s concept is so simple that it makes you wonder why it hadn’t been successfully launched previously. To describe it best would be to imagine if the classic Breakout was combined with Peggle. It is no surprise then to read of both men having worked intricately with PopCap (Don as General Manager and Brian as designer and programmer of Zuma, Peggle and Insaniquarium).
With the creation of GoBit they have a mission statement that games should be simple, fun and enjoyable for everyone.
IT BEGINS WITH A STORY FULL OF CHARM
Evil Orbs, if nothing else, is full of charm. It’s an addictive quality in the game that has made both Ainslie and I big fans. The game presents a story to open the game. It essentially tells the story how humans believe the orbs have invaded the earth. Dr. Klaus von Hammersphere has discovered the element, AntiOrbium, which sends the orbs back to where they came. To accomplish this, he has invented a weapon he has called the “Elementary Evil Orb Disposal Device 2000.” This weapon is a paddle that is used to shoot and deflect balls. The player has been recruited to wield the device and save humanity.
The story then evolves into the fundamental gameplay mechanics. The paddle is essentially a breakout type paddle. The default gameplay options require the player to push the mouse up and down to control the direction of the paddle. The left mouse button shoots the ball in the direction you are aiming. The ball then navigates around the level ricocheting off orbs. When a ball hits an orb the orb disappears. However, the orbs soon find defensive forces.
Hindering the player is a protective layer around the outside of the playing area. When a ball hits the layer, it deteriorates and will ultimately disappear in the area where it hit. Should the ball then hit this area again it will take the ball outside of the playing area and the ball will be lost.
The player unlocks about a dozen different power-ups. The power-up system is like the one utilized in Peggle. And like Peggle, it is important that the player learns what power-ups work best in each level setting. Choosing the right power-up provides the player with a significant advantage. However, there are many levels where a certain power-up will work against the player.
There are four game modes for players to play (and unlock). You begin with adventure mode but soon unlock relax and duel mode. Challenge mode unlocks when adventure mode is completed. There are 132 different levels to complete in adventure mode. Each of them represents a city that you are saving beginning with Seattle and moving throughout the world. Each level results in the player being awarded a ranking from gold through to failure.
All that GoBit have left to successfully hit all three of their mission goals is presentation. Although this could quite easily, and does, tick the boxes in the gameplay section it is in the presentation where the simplicity is the icing.
The presentation elements of the game are simple. Again, they are very reminiscent of the casual, arcade, action titles that the pair would have worked on at other studios. The presentation of Peggle is also quite clearly one of the major inspirations for this game. The developers didn’t need to do too much else with the game other than to make sure it worked. It does.
The graphics are quite basic but pleasing on the eyes at the same time. They are straightforward and make the game quite easy to pick up and play. The sound is suitable and exactly what I had expected it to be before playing the game. I feel that it is important to note just how easy it is to screw up the aesthetics for a game and turn a player right off. It takes expert knowledge and a bit of luck. Therefore, I believe that the developers experience has shone through with the presentation of Evil Orbs.
If there was one thing that I found to be disappointing it is in the achievements. There are 20 Steam-based achievements to unlock. However, there are 120 trophies to unlock within the game. I would have preferred to have seen the Steam achievements matching the in-game trophies. There are games with a total number achievement that dwarves the 120 mark. The game has also yet to feature Steam trading cards and I hope that they are added later.
What the game may lack in mirrored achievements and trading cards it more than makes up in multiplayer options as well as the utilization of Steam Cloud and Steam Leaderboards. Players can choose to play in local multi-player, online multi-player and even cross-platform multiplayer. However, it must be said that I have yet to be able to play cross-platform. I am not certain how to access it or if there is even a player base for it. Online multi-player is dependent upon two different accounts owning the game (as you would expect).
Unfortunately, hype for the game appears to be quite low. This is a little disappointing given the pedigree of the developers. Personally, I have a substantial friend’s list on Steam including many game collectors yet sadly only one other person currently has a copy of the game in their library. Therefore, I would encourage people desiring a multiplayer experience to find a real-life player to hot seat with. I would also encourage the developers to create a discounted two or four pack option.
Evil Orbs has been criminally underplayed, under reviewed and therefore under purchased on Steam to date. I am a much more hardcore and edgier gamer than is Ainslie. We have both thoroughly enjoyed this game. I would argue that they are for similar reasons. This game is simple, fun and enjoyable.