Orbital Bullet Early Access Review: What Goes Around…

Currently in Early Access, Orbital Bullet is an action platformer with a full 360º biome to blast through, all the while increasing the skill trees to get that one step further.

Orbital Bullet is like occupying alien worlds founded on the cylindrical barrels found in a lock. Not a line that’s going to appear anytime soon on the promotional material, but this game from Assemble Entertainment resembles an Ant-Man aesthetic as you traverse these action-packed biomes.

Developed by SmokeStab, Orbital Bullet is a rogue-like platformer currently in Early Access. It’s the type of game that dispenses incremental gains that feel slight but with a measurable display of progress. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to die in this game.

It’s not about locating the princess (she’s in another castle anyway), or building up the highest score to brag to strangers. Instead, this is about survival as you take on seemingly endless waves of extraterrestrials that couldn’t give a toss about those time capsules sent out by NASA back in the 70s. They want to hurt you.

Orbital Bullet Early Access Review (PC via Steam)

Survival is pretty tough when there are no medikits in sight. Sure, there’s a merchant through each of the procedurally generated worlds, but their prices are initially high to begin with, and they don’t stock much either. If you’re going to survive, you’ll need to improve on the skill trees.

Orbital Bullet Review - The floor is lava
The floor is lava. Source: Steam

I’ve identified two skill paths so far in my Orbital Bullet Early Access thesis: the current run skills that will vanish upon death and the permanent increases that can be invested after each run. It’s pretty easy to invest in the former, but these tend to be randomised.

The real virtue of Orbital Bullet is the 360º mechanics

Pick from more powerful attacks to speed increases (in addition to the very many perk drops available in-game), and you have a fighting chance. But remember, it’s random. Additionally, as you invest in these paths, you can unlock further tiers, choosing those that best suit your playstyle. These are all temporary, though, and the key investment would be the permanent stats.

Alas, these will cost you, and the only way to afford them is to get further and further into the game/repeat playing until you have enough. Bonuses can include anything from an improvement in firepower to the essential health packs where you can restore health on the fly, even pay a few credits for a boost. There’s also the benefits of lower prices at the merchants and broader inventory.

360º Biomes

That cylindrical lock analogy wasn’t the best, but perhaps it gives a hint on what to expect, as you will repeatedly return to your starting point by travelling in a straight line.

Orbital Bullet Review - Tracker
Tracking your movements… Source: Steam

To add some literal depth, your character can shift up and down layers, like cogs in a clock (going to town on these comparisons, eh?), so that you can either target or evade enemies accordingly. They will attack you with melee or ranged attacks – the former usually resulting in a charged attack. Not a power one, mind, but charging like a bull.

One of the fun aspects of Orbital Bullet, which also conserves ammo, is to jump on your enemies as if Super Space Mario

This works great, pending you aren’t being bombarded by overhead enemies or projectiles that have made an entire circuit and come back to haunt you. But this can work in your favour too.

Due to the 360º structure, you can shoot ahead to target an enemy behind you. This swiftly morphs into an advantageous strategy in boosting your XP and fundamentally staying alive. Not too dissimilar to the rather excellent Terror Squid.

A Hop, Skip And A Jump

Part of your repertoire includes a hop, skip and a jump, a.k.a. tight jumping mechanics, old school button mashing on the attacks (if you have the ammo), and evasive manoeuvres include rolling to safety and squeezing a bomb out of your cheeks. Be warned, though, if you double back on yourself, you can be injured by this tactic.

Orbital Bullet Review - The Merchant of...
The Merchant Of… Source: Steam

One of the most challenging aspects of Orbital Bullet is the lack of health. Yes, you can invest in the trait that awards you a health pack, later many more, but dying is quite frequent, but never on the fringes of frustration. In some ways, death is a bit of a reward as you can incrementally improve upon your stats. That is if you did well enough on the last run…

But skill increases don’t happen every time, so you do have to be pretty good to unlock the XP/currency to make a go of it. Besides the merchant, there are many weapon drops, shifting from explosive artillery to more advanced alien tech. It reminded me a little of Neon Abyss. Throw in those perks, where on several runs, I unlocked a triple jump (double jump is for noobs), and you have a very very replayable game.

    As this is in Early Access, you can expect to see the odd bug and a few features missing as part of the developer’s roadmap. From my experience, the only flaw was my ability. When it comes to content, you have three biomes to explore and around four character classes, each with various skills. In short, if you’re into rogue-lites, platformers and shmups… well, they’re all here. Go check it out.