Lost Orbit review: tricky to classify but great fun to play

4/5

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The Independent Tech

Developer: PixelNAUTS

Price: £9.99

Platform: PlayStation 4, PC

Lost Orbit is a tricky game to classify. While its sci-fi trappings recall classic scrolling shoot’em-ups, Lost Orbit has equally enough in common with the budget endless runners that populate smartphone app stores.

Canadian developer PixelNAUTS has taken to calling its tale of an insignificant worker bee astronaut a dodge’em-up. Adrift in space and struggling to return home, Harrison certainly has to exercise his reflexes while rocketing through asteroid fields, navigating past small planets and generally trying to avoid decorating various types of space debris with his own squishy innards.

Narrated with humour and pathos by an AI drone that takes pity on Harrison’s plight, Lost Orbit’s absorbing charm comes from incidental moments such as Harrison’s muffled exclamations of joy when perfectly hitting a speed boost, or in an impromptu race where the game’s protagonist gleefully ignores the grave danger around him in favour of a brief pyrrhic moment of victory.

During a campaign that spans over 40 bite-sized levels, Lost Orbit rewards bold players willing to pit their reflexes against the elements with greater rewards in the form of medals (as well as extra reserves of Obtanium, a collectable that can be spent in an RPG-lite upgrade system). While each level can be traversed at a leisurely pace – protecting Harrison’s mortality – Lost Orbit’s real thrills come from successfully pulling off jackknife turns and last second barrel rolls at breakneck speeds. While the medals are certainly great for bragging rights on the game’s leaderboards and time trial mode, the sheer thrill of adeptly rushing through an intricate field of hazards feels like a reward in and of itself.

With a poignant ending and a sublime soundtrack to boot, Lost Orbit is a strangely affecting jolt of energized fun. While in concept it may sound like a throwaway experience, as the narrator points out: “not everything needs to be explained by function and logic.”

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