Release Date: 6th July, 2016 (Early Access)
Purchase Date: 10th December, 2016 (Free Key from Developer)
Developer: Betelgeuse Zero
Game Engine: Construct 2
Orange Moon is currently in Early Access. Version played: v 0.0.5.3
This game was received free from the developer Betelgeuse Zero.
I’m drawn to certain games, without a doubt I’m drawn to the visuals of certain games. Orange Moon is proof of my Magpie like tendency to be drawn to something that looks interesting, and interesting Orange Moon is.
At first I thought it was going to be a Metroidvania type affair, however after ten minutes of playing through the first level I started to realise that no, this isn’t an attempt to recapture something that so many have tried to recapture before. No, Orange Moon attempts to be its own thing – a Sci-Fi Platformer. Sure, it has a few RPG elements in the way of resources and power ups, but the level design and progress is very much ‘left to right’ in the true platforming sense. There’s no back tracking, hidden passages and ability checks that I’ve come across so far. Normally I’d have passed on looking at a platformer, as I feel like I’ve played as many as I can play and enjoy, but the Sci-Fi design of Orange Moon drew me in.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how visually appealing Orange Moon is. Developer Betelgeuse Zero originally started doing UI and Character design for other developers, and this is where Orange Moon stands out. Everything looks the part. There’s a clear design effort here to build an overall experience that all ties together.
The UI and Character design all present a clear vision of a Sci-Fi world, of a murky mining experience gone wrong. I admire this, as it’s a part of my own design process I really struggle to come to terms with.
In fact, the more I think about and the more I play its clear that Orange Moon’s design overall is very polished. Its opening level has a good pace to it, it’s almost text book in design in the way it introduces hazards and the methods the game gives you to overcome them. I like it. It’s simple and effective, and more importantly it’s not annoying. The game gives you the info and moves on, it doesn’t keep spamming the tutorial at you, so it never feels like the game slows down.
Orange Moon has a clear story design too, again it follows the simple but effective trend that is apparent throughout the game’s design. The game drip feeds the story to you via the narrative incoming messages from a mysterious Mr. Anderson. Mr. Anderson explains tidbits of just what you’re doing on this strange Moon, and how best to navigate it so you can survive. Simple, effective, to the point. Orange Moon never tries to over explain, or over complicate matters, it’s very happy to leave the player to play allowing the experience tell the story. It’s a skill I haven’t seen too much in indie games – the comfortable silence. The confidence in knowing that your gameplay will carry the story, your level design will show the player the world and you’ve done a good enough job of keep the player engaged with the entire package of the game.
However, for as strong as the design and thought process into the game appears the actual gameplay seems a few steps behind now. The main issue I had while playing was the unnatural feel and unresponsiveness I had with the controls. The game supports an Xbox 360 controller, which is always a nice addition to have, yet it doesn’t feel totally calibrated. The left and right sticks fail to take advantage of the analogue inputs, with directional shooting seemingly stuck to an 8-point digital control setting. You can shoot 45 degrees up, or 45 degrees down, or straight ahead. I was unable to shoot anyway in between, which considering the game encourages you to use your gun to solve puzzles and defeat enemies as you progress led to a frustrating affair. This becomes an increasing problem during the platform section of the game, where you’re required to jump hazards or navigate large gaps. The control and finesse isn’t there that you’d expect from using an analogue stick. I’d be more forgiven if the controls were mapped to the d-pad, as at least then you’d know what to expect.
As far as ‘Early Access’ goes Orange Moon is doing it well, it feels like a potential ready to release game searching for user feedback to make sure it’s fully ready. I’d even dare say that there are full release games out there that aren’t as polished as Orange Moon’s current build. If Betelgeuse Zero can nail down the controller support, so there’s a more natural and responsive feel then they’ll be on to a winner. It’s a game I’ll return to play again once it has its full release. It’s one of the real true ‘it has promise’ games on Early Access, and if Betelgeuse Zero can work on the control aspect of the game, it’s one that I’m sure I’ll enjoy.