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Act: Orbz [by 21-6 Productions]

Game: Orbz 2.0
Release: April 18, 2003
Genre: Action
Developer: 21-6 Productions
Publisher:  Garage Games
System Requirements: (multiple platforms see others below)
Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP, Pentium II? 400, 64 MB RAM, OpenGL or DirectX? Compatible 3D Graphics Accelerator (32MB recommended), DirectX? compatible Soundcard
Price: $19.95
Play it Now!

There are a number of things that make this game stand out: the simple controls, the fun game play, the interesting graphics, the networking options. But what really stood out to me was the fact that this game has been released not only for Windows, but for the Mac and Linux as well! While I don't have a Mac, I do run Debian Gnu/Linux as my main desktop, and when I first saw Orbz 2.0, support for my favorite OS just stood out to me as a great thing. The game is based on GarageGames' Torque Engine, which not only is inexpensive for developers to look into, but again, supports multiple platforms and is a full featured engine for game development.

But this review isn't about the Torque Engine, as cool as it is. Orbz 2.0 is an action game involving different orbz competing to get the most points in a variety of courses. The Orbz shoot at different colored stars, which are color-coded according to their worth. There are also power-ups strewn about the courses, which can give you an advantage over your opponents in different ways. There is also the somewhat non-competitive Solo Mode, in which you basically compete against your own top score.

Another great feature: a tutorial level! Why do so many development teams forget to include one of these? While the game is pretty easy to pick up and play immediately, the tutorial mode does do a good job of getting a player acquainted with the controls. You basically learn how to aim properly as well as how to use the power-ups and transporters, among other objects.

As for the different courses, you can find yourself in a haunted looking graveyard, near cliffs with waterfalls, or in a construction zone, among other areas. Now these aren't amazingly detailed 3-D graphics that rival reality, but they aren't meant to be. The visuals appeal to the eyes in a fun cartoon way. The icy levels might feature frictionless surfaces, making missed shots pretty costly, especially as you race against time to get all of the stars. In Solo Mode, you can get medals for getting so many points in the time allowed, and when you get a certain number of gold medals, you can unlock new orbz to use in your games.

Besides Solo Mode, you can also play against other players in Online Mode! Besides the number of servers that are out on the Internet, you can host your own game, directly connect to another machine, or simply see the rankings of players around the world (as of this writing, I was ranked 163 out of 262 registered players) (I'm no.43 and addicted-ed). Playing against the computer or the clock can be fun, but playing against real people is a blast! While the games online do have time limits, you usually don't have the clock run down as it is more of a race against your opponents to try to get the most stars. Power-ups used properly and strategy enter into play as you try to capitalize on the bonus points awarded for long-shots, shots in a row, and the elusive double hits. Some of the power-ups are pretty standard sounding, like the Money Shot that doubles the score of the next star you hit. The Sticky Shot is one of my favorites, as it allows your orb to stick to whatever surface it hits. This means quickly shooting multiple times, giving you an advantage as your opponents might still have to roll to a stop. The Curse of the Goober is one that can cause frustration, as all the other orbz now weigh more, resulting in shots that just don't go as far as expected. I know I have been a few times by this right after I had taken a perfect shot at the purple star.

Besides playing against other people, and if you can't find anyone for some reason, there are botz that can be brought into the game. Unfortunately you can only add or remove the botz. You don't get the tweak their settings to make them easier or tougher opponents. Still, they can offer quite a challenge if you can't find a person to play against.

You can adjust the graphics settings, setting the details and the resolution, although I found 1280x768 option to look distorted. You can also set the game to full screen or windowed mode. You can change the controls as far as the mouse sensitivity goes as well as invert the mouse. There are a number of sound options as well, so you can listen to the cool sound effects and the fun music the way you want (nothing beats a good taunting online when you can hear it properly). There are help menus and instructions in game which are convenient so you don't have to close the game and open the instructions separately.

If I had to complain about anything, it would be that the registration methods used are confusing. While you can download the demo and install it just fine, the actual registration of the full version takes too many steps for my liking. Of course, by then the customer has already paid for the game and might go through the process to get his/her money's worth, which requires manually inserting a file into the game directory. Some people might not care to get that low level with their computers.

Still, once you get it up and running, the game is fun and challenging. Playing online is competitive and is even better with people you know. For some reason, taunting the computer just isn't as fun as taunting your friends. The fact that this game was supported under a number of Linux-based distributions may not appeal to most people who use Windows anyway, but I still think it is great to see a fun game commercially available for Linux.

Graphics: 9/10
While I didn't feel this was the most amazing game graphically, the visuals fit perfectly with the game theme. The different effects are nice, and the colors were vibrant.

Sound: 7/10
The music wasn't too varied, and the sound effects weren't overly amazing, but they also fit with the fun and games theme.

Game Play: 9/10
The controls are VERY simple and easy to get used to. Aiming properly and taking into account the physics of the game are key. A ball can bounce off of a high star onto a lower star for double hit bonuses if you aim it just right!

Options: 8/10
Out of all of the options, I think the biggest one is the networking support. Not many games in shareware see networking. The extent of multiplayer may be hotseat, turn-based gaming. This game brings a new and fun game to LAN parties!

Concept: 10/10
I remember first playing this and thinking, "Uh, is this it?" Deceptively simple, Orbz 2.0 doesn't hide the fun for too long. This reveals itself to be true when playing against other orbz, and especially other players online.

Fun: 9/10
I had a lot of fun trying to get the gold medals in the different courses, but I had the most fun competing for points against other players online. It is one thing to play for fun, but to compete for the top rank really appealed to me.

Overall: 10/10
Again, this game is actually a lot of fun even though it is so simple a concept. Shooting an orb at a star doesn't sound too complex, but mix in the other features including power-ups, points, rankings, medals, and different courses that get unlocked, not to mention the networking mode, and this game is a real winner!

System Requirements: (multiple platforms)
Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP, Pentium II? 400, 64 MB RAM, OpenGL or DirectX? Compatible 3D Graphics Accelerator (32MB recommended), DirectX? compatible Soundcard

Macintosh OS X (version 10.1 or greater), G4 Processor Recommended, 64 MB RAM, OpenGL Compatible 3D Graphics Accelerator

Linux Distributions, Pentium 400, 128 MB RAM, NVIDIA TNT2-class or better 3D Graphics Accelerator
Sound card, Kernel 2.4 or newer, glibc 2.2 or newer, XFree86 4.0 or newer with hardware accelerated OpenGL drivers. Supported distributions: Gentoo, Lindows 3.0+, Redhat 7.1+, SuSE 7.1+, Mandrake 8.x+, Debian 3.0+.
Added: September 9th 2003
Reviewer: Gianfranco Berardi
Hits: 17269
Language: english


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