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Review by: Keith Durocher
Published: May 16, 2003
Recipe for an enjoyably frustrating experience: Take one part vast outdoor environment. Add two parts glittering stars. Stir together with a dash of flashy particle effects to taste. And balls. Oh yes, a myriad of balls, for flavor. Serves 10. From out of nowhere, a small group of developers known as 21-6 Productions unveils the latest iteration of their debut title, Orbz 2.0. Wisely appealing to no one specific niche, the game has been structured with everyone in mind, from the hardcore 3D shooter fan to the solitaire-playing computer user. Candy-like in its presentation, Orbz is drenched in bright lights, funny special abilities, wide-open spaces and cartoon sound effects. Sometimes it plays a bit like mini-golf. Yes, mini-golf. That’s the sort of enjoyably frustrating experience I’m talking about.
Orbz doesn’t have a story line as such. It’s not a “story” sort of game. But then, Tetris doesn’t have a story, either, and that never seemed to hurt it much. Sporting both single- and multi-player modes, its goals are fairly basic: Get as high a score as possible. Sometimes there are time limit restrictions; sometimes you’ll be working to best your opponents. In the end, it always comes down to the getting the highest score. The rest is in how you achieve that score.
The core concept is all about flinging balls called “Orbz” over varying distances at starry targets in vast outdoor environments. It doesn’t get much more complex than that, really. After loading a map, you find yourself gazing over a lush 3D landscape. Center screen, you have a mouse-controlled reticle. All around are shiny golden stars, beckoning your attention.
Taking cue, you aim said reticle at one of those inviting stars, and left-click. At this, you will see your reticle change to a multicolored slider-bar. The colors on this bar range from green to yellow to red, representing the strength of shot desired. Green for a very weak shot, red for a high-powered shot. After determining the strength of the shot desired, the adventurous spirit may then left-click again.
The end result of careful aim and gauging of the slider-bar will be your Orb flying through the air in an arc toward your starry target. If you have clicked with the requisite force, your Orb will hit the star with a satisfying “boing,” bounce off, hit the ground, and you’re up by 100 points. That’s it. That’s the gameplay in a nutshell. I assure you, however, the first time you hurl your little Sphere too hard at the wrong angle, the essence of Orbz will become apparent. You’ll want to get that star. It’ll seep into your psyche, the desire to whack that hapless pointy thing. Don’t pity that star. It had it coming.
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