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For: Windows Phone   Also on: Android, iPhone, iPad
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Product: Orbital | Publisher: Microsoft Studios | Developer: bitforge | Format: Windows Phone | Genre: Arcade | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Orbital Windows Phone, thumbnail 1
Fancy playing a game that could go on forever?

There's no escaping the fact that, by and large, mobile games are designed for the short haul: snappy experiences crafted to fit that five minute fix when riding the bus, sat on the throne, or – don't tell Pocket Gamer – when you're meant to be working.

At first glance, ball bouncer Orbital looks like the exception that proves the rule. Depending on your level of skill, games can last forever. But they can also last as long as your average run on Canabalt.

Taking down the tally

The length of time you'll be tackling Orbital all depends on how well you're able to plan ahead, and how sharp your aim is. As with Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint, games can fall apart in seconds if your aim is found in any way wanting.

Your job is to fire balls from the bottom of the screen. Once in the field of play, they grow until they either touch the side of the grid or bump into a fellow ball already on the field.

Each ball starts with a count of three (or five if you're playing in Supernova mode), and the idea is to wipe orbs from the board by making them collide with other orbs.

Gravity games

As such, there's no way to ever clear the board of balls entirely. Orbital is instead a game of survival, where keeping the grid as clear as you can for as long as possible is the one and only aim.

As soon as any of your balls bounces back and crosses the 'death line' at the bottom of the screen it's Game Over.

This forces you to play tactically. It's entirely possible to take out several balls out at once if you angle your approach correctly, threading it into a tunnel behind a wall of balls.

The modes on offer mix the gameplay up a bit. Gravity – a personal favourite – gives every orb you place a gravitational pull proportionate with its size, dragging in other balls as they pass.

Locked in orbit

Supernova mode ups the ante by stretching each orb's tally up from three to five, while Pure – Orbital in its 'original' form – offers a straighter take on events.

Also on board is a multiplayer mode, which plants a launchpad either side of the screen in a turn-based setup.

While the multiplayer gameplay is arguably too compact for even on the HTC HD7's 4.3-inch screen, it's still good fun if you don't mind squinting.

Whether playing solo or in multiplayer, Orbital has the power to deliver a tight and tense game. Just don't start playing it during your coffee break at work, or you could easily find yourself out of a job by the end of the afternoon.
Reviewer photo
Keith Andrew | 7 December 2011
Addictive and potentially endless, few ostensibly simple puzzlers boast this much hidden complexity
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