Review: Orb Labs Inc
Independent developer Next Friday Interactive does a great job of creating a complex VR experience.
To those of us who are not videogame protagonists that if you receive a mysterious message from an unknown contact to go and visit a top-secret underground bunker, to smartest and safest thing to do is to ignore the message. It is not how life works in the world of videogames, however, which is just as well, or we’d have a lot fewer titles to play.
Orb Labs Inc starts with the premise that you are attempting to infiltrate a secretive underground complex which has been engaging in extremely sketchy research. The company in charge of the complex, Orb Labs Inc, are so paranoid that they have covered everything in deadly laser emitters.
Luckily, Orb Labs Inc have unwittingly become the agents of their own destruction as some of the products of their research falls into your hands, enabling you to navigate your way around the underground lab.
Each of the Orbs has different properties, each of which must be used in different ways to help you get around the facility and uncover the truth. In order to be used, the Orbs need to be thrown to their target, which can take some getting used to as you try and figure out how hard it needs to be done. There some occasional frame-rate jitter as well, which can seriously disrupt your throw.
Graphically, Orb Labs Inc looks great. There’s a professional, polished feel to the graphics, that makes it feel real and worth exploring. Animations are likewise very smooth, despite the stutter that occurs every so often.
Movement is handled through teleportation using one of the first Orb types you pick up. It acts as an introduction to the Orb gameplay mechanic and as such doesn’t feel intrusive and instead feel integrated into the gameplay in a pleasantly fluid manner.
The story takes a while to get anywhere, with most of it being handled through an in-universe text box that pops up to give you information. Otherwise, you need to explore and find things out for yourself. Very little is handed to you on a plate.
There is a slight problem with the difficulty curve, which has some sudden sharp jumps early on, where if you have not instantly mastered a new Orb or technique, you are dead. It can be very frustrating to feel like you are slowly getting the hang of things to suddenly hit a brick wall, though this could probably be smoothed out with some fairly minor tweaks.
The sound is somewhat uninspiring, consisting mostly of public domain or cheaply bought music loops that don’t seem to match the surroundings and action especially well, and the music sometimes seems to cut out entirely only to abruptly start up again later in a very jarring fashion.
For a title produced by a very small, independent developer, Orb Labs Inc does an excellent job of creating a world and immersing you in it. The gameplay flow is great once you get the hang of it, and it offers an interesting story.
There are some issues, however, there are performance issues that could be handled with some extra optimisation, and the difficulty curve needs smoothing out a bit. There’s also the issue with the soundtrack, which really needs some more fitting, custom composed music to bring it up to the next level. Overall, however, Orb Labs Inc is a very worthy effort and definitely worth checking out, despite some of the issues.