Island Officials' Kickstarter-funded puzzler Orion's Odyssey is the spiritual successor to Hands On! Tangrams, a fun but one-note title that had solid gameplay but little variety and was severely lacking in presentation. Island Officials has crafted a more polished experience with a charming presentation and story, but with extremely simplistic gameplay Orion's Odyssey may not provide enough of a challenge for older gamers. Still, this is clearly crafted with care, and the developer's enthusiasm for the world and characters it's created is enough to put a smile on any puzzle fan.
In Orion's Odyssey, players are cast as Orion, a friendly robot who longs for good conversation. After crash-landing on Earth, Orion discovers his ability to craft anything from different shapes and sets out to help people and make friends. The story is light and funny, with Orion often misinterpreting conversations he has with others; it takes him several levels to realize that a mad scientist's desire to use Orion for his own nefarious plans is a bad guy. Other characters, like a little boy who Orion meets and befriends, provide great personality to the story, which is told through excellent sprites and pixel art on the top screen. There is no voice acting, but Orion's few sound effects are cute, innocent and never get intrusive.
The gameplay, which takes place on the bottom screen, tasks the player with filling in an object using a set amount of shapes. Whereas Hands On! Tangrams required the player to use seven preset puzzle pieces, Orion's Odyssey allows the player to use up to 30 shapes to fill in each object. While this makes for some fun experimentation, the freedom makes for little challenge. The challenge, then, is in the different ways each puzzle can be completed. Players can replay puzzles to try to get better scores using less blocks; the objects are directly related to the story, such as farm animals, junkyard robot dogs, cars and more. The controls are generally intuitive, with players using the touch screen to place shapes, and the d-pad and shoulder pad to flip and rotate these objects.
There are several extras in Orion's Odyssey that extend the experience. A challenge mode limits the shapes the player can use, and extras such as character biographies and music (which is, unfortunately, rather generic) are unlocked as levels are completed. The main draw in the game, though, is watching the wacky story unfold over the course of the 10 different themed levels; while it's clearly aimed at a younger audience, there are plenty of puns and funny lines that older players will get a kick out of.
With a clever script, charming graphics and plenty of puzzles, Orion's Odyssey is a great step forward from Hands On! Tangrams. Island Officials has created a fun world with memorable characters that we'd love to see appear again in future titles. While there isn't much of a challenge, the gameplay is pleasant and fun and lends itself well to bursts of play-time, which is ideal for a handheld puzzler. The experience may be geared at a younger audience, but puzzle fans will be delighted to solve each object and watch Orion's Odyssey unfold.