July 7, 2011 | by Ben Crawford
Orbital Defender is a new game that’s gotten a good bit of press recently. It’s an iOS port so many people may have already heard of it or played it. Orbital Defender is a shoot’em up where, instead of using on-screen direction controls, you simply use the touchscreen to shoot. Not an unheard-of control scheme, but this game builds itself on that simple idea. It’s similar in some respects to Space Invaders and Asteroids, though it doesn’t take its style or gameplay from these two retro games. Orbital Defender can be a quick take-out-and-play game or a solid sit-down-for-an-hour type game. There are multiple levels and multiple chapters, guns, bombs, UFOs, rockets, so you shouldn’t get tired of this game any time soon.
The premise and layout are simple: Asteroids, comets, UFOs, and other objects hurtle toward your planet as you defend it with a lone satellite that can shoot bullets, rockets, sonic pulses, etc. You have no control over the satellite as it circles around the planet, and you can only shoot in a certain direction or else you will damage the planet with your own weapons. As the levels and chapters progress, there will be more, quicker asteroids and other cosmic devastators that you still have to defend with your lone satellite. You can get power-ups and regenerative bonuses by shooting their respective little balls floating towards you. That is the total gameplay premise, very simple, yet deceptively difficult.
In Orbital Defender, shooting is the only aspect you can control, and it is very well thought out, though tiresome. To simply shoot bullets, you tap on the screen; to shoot rockets, you swipe where you want it to go (you can upgrade these to be homing rockets); and for sonic pulses, you long-press where you want bomb to explode. After I upgraded to rockets, there was hardly any need to use bullets. Yes, they shot a little quicker, but rockets did more damage almost as quickly, plus they’re unlimited.
Unfortunately, I found myself simply tapping the screen as fast as I could in the general area my satellite was flying and still being able to kill everything relatively easy ( just on the first level). Although I only played the lite version which is 5 levels on Mercury, I believe it would be key later on to know which types of weapons kill which enemy the quickest. Since Mercury, the first and easiest level, had enough enemies to overrun you, the next planets in the solar system must be exceptionally more difficult, making you think about what you should shoot and when. I found myself simply tapping the screen as fast as I could in the general area my satellite was flying and still being able to kill everything relatively easy (again, just on the first level).
The graphics are nice, but nothing extraordinary. The controls are solid and shooting different types of weapons become easily associated with flicking, long-pressing, swiping, or tapping. In the full game, there are 20 levels as of now, but the developer says more are coming soon which is always a great sign. Overall, Orbital Defender is a solid game with well-implemented ideas that shouldn’t cause even casual-est of gamers to fret. Despite this, I don’t know how much staying power Orbital Defender has as I beat the first level in under 10 minutes.
App: Orbital Defender Lite
Cost: Free/US $0.99 Full