☆ Review: Orbital Racer "Mario Kart Meets Burnout in Space?" ☆

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Orbital Racer - PC

The trailer makes this video game look really enticing. Of course, that is what trailers are supposed to do, but what I mean is that I thought it was offering something like Mario Kart meets Burnout but in space, an enticing concept, and instead I got one of those knockoff animal mascot racers from the PS1 era with a lot more visual polish. Is that too harsh? Maybe…

I don’t have much experience with the more realistic racing games or even simulators, but Orbital Racer caught my attention with its visuals, then I realized it might be a good bridge for me getting into more games like this. No. That is what this title advertises itself with, a space simulator and thrilling racer, but it doesn’t quite play out like that. What it offers is eight locations in the solar systems and twenty-four tracks, even if all of them look too similar and feel vacant and cluttered at the same time, this isn’t like other racing games where it is easy to pick a favourite course or set piece. There are only three different ship models, but those do have some variations, though I’m not sure if that is a positive or not.

“In space, no one can hear you drift” –actual tagline

There are single races for some quick thrills and a career mode that goes much more in-depth, involving prize money and upgrades, but I didn’t get too far into that, due to learning the game and boredom. Two different ways to play: the Action style is like an arcade mode, claiming to be about fast and satisfying gameplay through speed and powerups as players rock out in the cockpit, while the Simulation mode puts its emphasis on realism and forcing the pilot to obey Newtonian physics with ‘plausible thruster forces’ and what they claim to be more challenging and rewarding flying through this drift. 

Learning how to play can be a tad difficult, especially when the tutorial is informative, but doesn’t let the player know if what they did was right or happened to be a lucky button press. I still have questions about how the powerups are done and their timing, as well as there is a lack of clear evidence on how to perform the action and full use of controls. After stumbling my way through the introductory part I attempted to play with a controller, as it says there is partial support for gamepads, but why allow the device if it can’t even be used on the menus? I ended up switching back to the mouse after a while, but I didn’t enjoy using that either. I despise how it felt with turning and pressed incorrect buttons more often, not getting the desired effect, and that was when I wasn’t accidentally clicking outside of the box and exiting the window entirely—frustrating. This got a little better after tweaking the sensitivity and a few other small things. I think this is why they boast that the controls are fully customizable. Even with those adjustments, the movements never seem responsive enough and the racing aspect feels lost. I can’t help but be reminded of the Star Wars (1983) arcade game, flying the X-wing, but there is no reason this game should come across like that. The challenge of embracing the simulator and racer sides may not have been met fully, and focusing on one more than the other may have helped. 

The actual combat in the game seems minimal, either because the player is so far ahead or gets hit a couple of times and is stuck in the back. Why does everyone get their powerups at the same time, after three checkpoints? This takes out the surprise and a lot of the variables for me, on top of what are already some lacklustre shooting mechanics and having plenty of decoys to defend with. The AI can also be very tough, even in amateur settings, so the learning curve is going to feel more daunting. What is more challenging than the computer opponents though might be navigating the menus, as they are overly complicated and need some serious rearranging. 
The game excels mostly at its presentation, as it makes space look good, but I did run across some visual issues, especially when going off-track and trying to explore. I wasn’t a fan of the HUD, as it was hard to see, cluttered, and became distracting with the way the background moved, but watching someone else play it, was easy to see how this simulated a space fighter more, even if it wasn’t one. This did get me wondering how someone who suffers from motion sickness would do trying to play this game though. The sound is loud and effective, making the ships and warnings from the computer feel more real, again leading me to think the developer should have stuck with just doing a simulation experience. 

If they did want to sell this on the racing, the game NEEDS multiplayer and some tweaks to the combat, and a smidge more fun. With that said, I can still see some people getting swallowed up by the career mode for a while, especially fans of simulators, but I can’t see it holding attention for too long without some updates. As for me, I could only play it in doses and just wasn’t enjoying the gameplay in the end. Don’t misread me though, as this isn’t some of the typical Steam garbage that people seem to stumble onto so much as of late, as there was some actual love and attention put it in this, but it isn’t for me. I’m not sure how many others will want it either, especially at the fifteen dollar price tag. I liked the idea, but much like actually floating around in space, the entertaining part fades quickly. 


Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Review By Wilds

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: Movie Games SA

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