Art Style: Orbient (WiiWare)

Game Review

Art Style: Orbient Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Stephen Witkowski

Does this bit generations remake keep the spirit of the original game intact?

Back in 2006, Nintendo published a series of games on the Game Boy Advance in Japan called bit Generations, which were a sister series to the DS’s Touch Generations games meant to illustrate the beginnings of video games. One of the games released in this interesting series was Orbital. It’s quite clear that Art Style: Orbient (or “Orbient” for short) is a remake of Orbital, but we don’t want to spoil the details of the game in the first paragraph.

Let’s begin with the premise: the bit Generations games really strip things down to the point where there is little to analyze except for the game itself, and the point of this game is rather simple. You assume the role of a little gray star, and must absorb stars of equal size (coloured blue) to grow and eventually become large enough that a “goal star” begins to glow yellow. Once this occurs, you must manoeuvre the grey star so that the goal star falls into your orbit to complete each stage. This is easier said than done, however.

Besides your little star, there are many other stars of various sizes within each stage. You can use the A and B buttons (sorry, no waggle) to use gravity and anti-gravity respectively to pull and push your star around the level. This helps avoid obstacles and allows you to bring your star into another’s orbit. Keep in mind that when you’re trying to move into another star’s orbit you need to come in at a gradual angle. If you’re on the right track, this will often be indicated by a curved dotted line on screen, but don’t rely on this as many levels require lots of adjustment in your trajectory. Once you’re locked in orbit a little white line will circle around the larger star. To get out of a star’s zone of orbit (indicated by a red circle around it), simply use anti-gravity to push yourself out.

With all this said, it's probably wise that we provide you with some details about the types of obstacles within the game. The larger stars (which are always red) end up both helping and hurting you. Yes, they’re the main sources of gravity and anti-gravity, but many of them also hinder your direction, particularly when your gravity prowess causes you to run into them. Outside of these though, everything is out to prevent your progress. Asteroids (always purple) come in various forms (small, large, ring shaped, etc) and are often either in orbit or stuck to a set path. The other major obstacles of the game (and possibly the most deadly) are the black holes. These structures are naturally black in the centre, but you have to be careful since they have their own gravitational pull. When you are attached to the black hole's pull, purple streamlines appear that connect to your star. At all other times these lines just rotate around the centre of the black hole. Like planets, black holes do have anti-gravity, and you can enhance its pull by pushing the gravity button on your Wii Remote. If you get pulled into the centre you have to restart the level with one less hit.

Health in this game is indicated in the top right of the screen. Your star has a limited number of hits that it can sustain before it disintegrates into a shower of tiny pixels. There’s a little more to health, though, as each thing that you have orbiting your star when you beat a level awards you an extra hit that you either earn back or gain for the next one.

That's right, you can have other things orbit your star. First and foremost, when your star has grown to a point where it is larger than other stars, the other stars turn grey and you can make them orbit your own by passing them while having them fall into the “orbit circle” that appears when you’re near something that can fall into your gravitational pull. When these other planets do lock in, they trigger layers of a piece of music that gradually builds into a pretty nifty song (the song is the same for all the levels). Keep in mind that if you cause the yellow crescent moon (it only appears when the goal star has become active) to fall into your star’s orbit, it triggers its own little blurb of sound and cancels out that music you’ve been building up. The benefit of the moon, though, is that it awards bonus points at the end of the level, and if you beat all the levels with the moon in orbit, something special happens. That’s really all there is to the game and after a few minutes of play it won’t even feel as complex as we've made it sound.

A review wouldn’t be complete without the nitpickings though. Graphics-wise, we have to say that we came away quite disappointed. It’s not that we were expecting the most incredible 3D models of all time but considering this game has Nintendo’s name attached to it, the low quality visuals left us perplexed. To the game’s credit though, it is based on a GBA title that was meant to emphasize simplicity, and it has a really nice ethereal aesthetic that really stems from the merging of its look, sound, and gameplay.

The game is really more reliant on its sound and music design. Granted, there's the orbiting star's old-school symphony of greatness, but besides that there are only really short, basic, background loops. The sound effects are very nice though and almost catchy. There are also a couple of differences between Orbient and Orbital in addition to the updated graphics and sound. Orbient has a more zoomed in perspective than its portable counterpart, making navigation more precise. It is also worth noting that in the original game all the planets were fixed to their original location, whereas in Orbient many of the planets move about. Another difference is that the only indication of the pull and push of the planets in the original version was a small ring of coloured light (red for gravity, blue for anti-gravity) around the star, but in Orbient the planets that are pulling and pushing you are highlighted via particle effects.

Extras are available in the form of additional levels that range from very hard to extremely hard. These begin unlock when you beat the main game, but as far as collecting the moons are concerned, we can only speculate as to what you can unlock since we haven’t completely obliterated the game yet. The highlighting of niggles is almost over, but it's worth pointing out that there are no multiplayer or online modes in Orbient.


Putting our incessant nitpickings aside for a moment (and to be fair they are really observations as opposed to complaints) this game rocks. Many WiiWare titles lack depth, but Orbient nips that stereotypical quality in the bud. The game may be conquerable within a matter of hours but after a few levels the genius of the gameplay really starts to shine through. It’s great to see a bit Generations game be released outside of Japan that has improvements over the original, even if the changes are fairly meagre overall. You should strongly consider checking Orbient out. For a measly 600 Wii points, it would be rude not to!

From the web

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User Comments (55)



AlexSays said:

Couple questions..
If Nintendo knew this game was good, why not release ANY info before it's release?
And why release the game the same week Hudson releases their popular game, being Bomberman?
I still think this is a game Nintendo had in the closet, and released for a few bucks.
Or they just had a development team with nothing to do, so they gave them this to keep them occupied.



thewiirocks said:

@x.SuperMario.x - Interesting questions. I'm not sure if we'll get any answers, though. My best guess (totally off the cuff, just pulled this out of my arse, don't bet the farm on it) is that Nintendo wanted more games in the sub-1000 point range. Since no one else wants to sell their games that low, Nintendo decided to do it themselves. But where to find games at? Someone then realized that the bit Generation games had never been seen in the US and would be cheap to port over. Voila, instant solution. That's my 2 cents anyway.

As for the review, I'm glad other people are liking the game so much. I still maintain that I don't get anywhere near as much out of it as I hoped. Also, I think Orbital is the superior game.

But such takes are simply a difference of opinion. I think the Stephen's review touched on the major points of the game so that readers may decide for themselves. So, great work Stephen!



pdrydia said:

I expect this to sell well from price point alone. I'll be sure to pick it up, myself. I already imported a couple of the other bit Gen titles, and they're pretty cool. Here's hoping for a Dialhex WiiWare port.



Naturestee said:

LOL, I just asked when this review was coming in the Top 20 thread! 8/10 seems to be a popular score for this. Unless I missed something, was your only nitpick the graphics?

At only 600 points and with fascinating gameplay, I'll pick this up when I'm through with my current games.



Ben__Harlan said:

We didn't notice about this? And now is an eight? Amazing. And only 6€, and looks like a simple version of Katamari. This game fits for me!



Objection said:

Nice review. I find it ironic that the explanation of such a "simple" game had such a long explanation fo its gameplay! Anyway, it IS weird that Ninty shot this out in the dark, but that's Ninty for ya: they never make sense.



Mr_Saturn said:

Okay, that about wraps up what was already a foregone conclusion for me - time to get AS:O.



Satans_Therapist said:

Hope this comes to the uk sharpish will definately get it after seeing a very good review here and on ign.



Ski_Deuce said:

@ Naturestee
The graphics were my only real nitpick. I wasn't bothered by them really. I was just surprised.

@Zaphod Beeblebrox
The moons can be tough to collect. I haven't had time to really dedicate myself to the collection of the moons yet, but I know I'll be getting some hefty replay value when I do. Good luck.



naisatoh said:

My main complaint is the lack of online leaderboards, especially when the game keeps track of your best times and scores.

Also, if I were in charge, I would have added a stage-creator. For a game as simple as this, the ability to make your own levels would not only be easy, but also add tons of replay value.



Sonic_Spin08 said:

I'm definatly getting this when I'm done with Wario Land Shaked, which rocks! But, I want to get bomberman too.



Twilight_Crow said:

A smple, nice game; that, fits perfectly with Ninty's now a days theme.
I'm not surprised by the release of this game, c'mon, they must have a lot of little teams producing these kind of games, I bet they don't tell anyone about this, because they don't know witch of these games are going to actually come out, or when.



Mario64DStyle said:

I like the "just to keep them busy" idea the best

Also.. I'm going to hold off on this game until a snowday or something lol..
I'm more of a multiplayer games type of guy.. I might get this some other time though



MarkyVigoroth said:

I saw the video, so I find that game interesting. Maybe I should read the review a more carful second time before I decide to buy this. (Also, this is for a cheap $6!)



Steviis_Father said:

I bought myself the bitGeneration games off Ebay back in 2006, Orbital one of them. Although Orbital wasn't my favorite, it did leave a lot for me to like. I don't think this game will be worth my money (since I have a portable version of the game already), but for anyone who likes a game that uses a great gravity system (mix "cave run" with Mario Galaxy's tug-stars), you'll have a good time with this game.

3/5 stars

  • Makes me wonder if they intend to bring the other bitGeneration games to WiiWare. A multiplayer dotstream would be just awesome! Even if it's not online...


Wesbert said:

Releasing good games without prior warning? Not such a bad idea at all, because now people will be wondering what the next update might bring, and whether it might also contain a hitherto unkown hidden gem (whereas overhyped games feel old the day they're released, since one has already seen everything). Besides, how should this game have been advertised? It's defined by it's gameplay, not it's graphics. Screenshots and videos alone hardly do it justice, and euphoric press-releases more often than not cause sinister forebodings.
Nintendo apparently thought this game would speak for itself. And it does.



Objection said:

I just got a Visa so I can buy Wii points directly from my Wii! yay...and now's a great time to do so!



deadbattery said:

This looks awesome. And, as a result, I don't expect it to spend much time in the top 20.

It sickens me to think of how many people will skip this and buy crap like My Pokemon Ranch, SPOGS Racing, Pong Toss, My Pokemon Ranch, and My Pokemon Ranch instead. (I'm aware of the repetition. The existence of that "game" is still an utter F***ING tragedy.)



WiiMan192 said:

Oh yes, let the good times roll
This is what WiiWare was meant for. Wii-makes, yes, but also innovative and unique concepts that wouldn't normally sell at retail. I hope this heads on to PAL regions soon



Technics1200s said:

This is one of my absolute favorite Wii-Ware games! I've been hooked - hardcore - since I've downloaded it. It's a very charming and unique game that, for 600 points, truly does belong in every Wii-Warer's library. I would highly recommend to anybody to download this game. Once you get the hang of it (give it 10 minutes of straight gameplay), I trust you'll see exactly what I'm talking about! Just go for it; you will not be disappointed!!



Clayfrd said:

Wow. This game is pretty good. I just bought it a based solely on this review, and I must say, I'm impressed. I've beaten the first couple of galaxies, and I don't intend to put the game on the SD card until I beat them all.



luke17 said:

I got this today, and I haven't been disappointed. Strangely addicting....although I'm not sure why!



luke17 said:

Has anyone beaten the game with all moons yet? I'm curious to know what happens.....



Ski_Deuce said:

I'm working on it. I don't have a whole lot of time to play the game right now though. I've been in a swamp of homework this week.



Mabbit said:

I want to get this game but then I would just regret not buying megaman 9 or waiting world of goo.



Ski_Deuce said:

Yeah. I have some polish background. My grandparents on my dad's side were from Poland. Unfortunately, I've never really had the chance to get to know just about anyone on my dad's side of the family.



Jockolantern said:

Best. Two-Button. Game. Ever.

Along with its spirit-brother Cubello, Orbient is one of the most strangely addictive, immersively simple experiences available for the Wii. Easy to start up, hard to shut off, it is gaming at its simplest and most addictively effective.



Rawful said:

I had read a few times about some Art Style games, but only the titles. I hadn't realized that they were bit generations remakes!!
I'm so excited now!

Orbital was one that I wanted, but couldn't find, so I might get it.

Hopefully Digidrive gets remade!



Clayfrd said:

@Jockolantern - WoG is two buttons...
Still you described this game quite well. It's just so much fun. It has it's frustrating parts, but the pure simplicity makes it a joy to play. It's the kind of game you want to play alone in perfect silence.



blackknight77 said:

Just got the game. Oribent is really good, but very challenging. Wish the visuals were a little bit better, but the gameplay is addictive



gameking23 said:

Just got this game, and enjoying every minute of it. Now I have all three Art Style games. I bought them in reverse of the release order.

My ranking for Art Style
1st Cubello
2nd Orbient
3rd Rotohex



Virus said:

To just get it out immediately, Orbient is a pretty good game, and I would agree with the score the reviewer gave it. The gameplay is unique; the music is not painful; and the difficulty grows steadily and fairly (the game gets pretty challenging towards the end, but it's nothing too awful).

However, there are two things problematic with the game that are worth mentioning and both have to do with level design. One, while some levels are a joy to play (some even provide those "wow" moments), some levels are severely uninspired to the point where it seems the developers just threw a bunch of meteorites and planets on the level. These, sadly, make up about a quarter of the levels, but only about two or three levels are painful to play.

The other problem is sometimes it feels like you have no control over your planet. A good portion of the time, the control works well (or at least according to the positions of the other planets), but sometimes a stray planet has more influence on you than a larger mass of planets even when you're closer to that larger mass. Other times it seems like your frantic button-mashing (or sustained smashing) is doing absolutelty nothing. Some levels are set up to force you to stay in a small area so you have control over your planet, and I'm fine with these stages; there are just some stages that seem to have some problems.

Again, Orbient is a good game, but it must be noted its gameplay isn't necessarily award-winning or ridiculously addictive. It's just a fun diversion. Finally, it took me about ten hours to complete the whole game with all the moons.

You may have figured this out already, but to my knowledge, getting all the moons just unlocks extra stages and different versions of the credits. I don't know exactly what the moons do because I always got the moon on each level before proceeding, but 50 stages and three endings are unlocked by the end of the game.



ness said:

@ Virus: There are 55 Stages. (You have to collect the moon in every stage.)



Virus said:

Where are these last five stages? I collected all the moons on my first run through, but after the "Final" stages, no additional levels popped up. Are you positive there are 55 stages, and if so, where would I find them/what are they called?



ness said:

Argh, sorry, i checked it once again, and i have to admit that i miscount the stages =(.



Virus said:

Well, gosh darn it; I was looking forward to some mysterious extra stages.



ness said:

This is from gamefaqs.com:

"What does the coin-like satillite do?

I noticed a strange coin-like satillite while playing. It looked like a silver coin being flipped but in slow motion, and was moving in a straight path. It didn't produce gravity or anti-gravity (just like the crescent moons). I wasn't able to get it into my orbit before I completed the stage and when I re-tried the stage the statille did not appear.

What the heck. Has anyone else even seen this coin-like satillite? What does it do if you get it in your orbit?"

I saw it today, too, but also wasn't able to get it. The same question: What does it do if you get it in your orbit?



Virus said:

I've neither been able to absorb the weird thing or have it orbit me. Judging from how many times I've attempted, I would go as far to say it's some glitch, but I don't know for sure. Hmmm...



ness said:

I don't think it's a glitch, because it don't look like a graphical fault or something, but i'm not sure, too^^.



Virus said:

On the other side of the coin (no pun intended), it doesn't behave like a programmed object. It doesn't move in one set pattern; it actually seems to always be out of reach (because it always moves away from your planet); and it goes through all other objects. If you've experienced otherwise, I'd like to hear because although I still think it is a glitch, it seems weird that Nintendo would let something this huge go unnoticed. Then again, there are some sections in the game where the music screws up horribly if you collect enough satillites.



ness said:

I just saw it once, and in my case it moved on a circular path, but i wasn't able to watch it a long time.



CanisWolfred said:

I'm not really interested in this, but it does remind me of Strange Attractors 2, which I really enjoy, and it also used a gravity type thing.



Ski_Deuce said:

I'm not sure how many people may notice this post or not, so I may put it in the forums too. I've finally completed this game at 100% (I've taken long breaks here and there). Originally, when I did my review I gave the game a 9 out of 10 (the editors changed it), but after completing the game, even though you could nitpick about a couple things, games don't come out very often that are so well realized based on their gameplay concepts alone. Orbient's a classic, and a supberb experience that's expertly designed.



Betagam7 said:

Well done on 100%ing it. I just finished the first 30 levels with moons on all the first three galaxies. Looking forward to futher challenges that have been unlocked.



MarcBenoit said:

Regarding the coin-shaped mysterious object with the H like symbol...

I have been trying to catch this for HOURS, any time it seemed as if I was given the chance, and I never could: it's been and is driving me mad. I've been looking on the Internet on any available forum, cheat page, too: as far as I and Google know, nobody has been able to catch it.

So before I start a petition or blackmail the programmers, is there anybody who knows more?

I maintain it is IMPOSSIBLE to catch the object, and that this is done ON PURPOSE. The object even looks like the dyscordian symbol of contrasting forces - Eris - as if the programmers wanted to put something nobody could ever catch in the game.

A subtle and sophisticated way of hinting at the unfathomable, or a sadistic attitude towards the player?

Either way, HELP __

So anybody who might be able to shed a light on it would be definitely appreciated

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